New York’s hockey teams are off to a hot start to the 2021 season


Austin Eigen, Contributing Writer

To the surprise of all hockey fans, the Rangers have gotten off to a great start this season.  A significant factor contributing to their early success this season was the extension of defenseman Adam Fox.  Fox grew up in Jericho before going to Harvard to continue his hockey career.  He was drafted 66th overall by the Calgary Flames before being sent to his hometown with the New York Rangers.  Fox certainly earned his contract, winning the Norris Trophy for the top defenseman in the NHL last season.  This week, he signed a seven year extension with the Rangers worth $66.5 million.  

“Fox may even make a bigger contribution than Panarin this season if he keeps up the good work,” said junior Sean Agin. 

 His most recent goal came short-handed against the team that drafted him.  The crowd in Calgary began to boo him because he brought his incredible talent to the Rangers.

Another key component to the Rangers’ success so far this season has been the outstanding play of goalie Igor Shesterkin.  Shesterkin was brought up to the Rangers from their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, during fan-favorite and Rangers legend Henrik Lundqvist’s last season with the Rangers.  While he started out his NHL career as the Rangers’ third goalie, he has easily earned the Rangers’ top goalie spot, with a record 10-2-0 during his rookie season.  This season, he is 6-2-2 with an amazing 2.32 goals against average and a .931 save percentage.  The improvement in the Rangers’ net is clear while he is in goal.

One area where the Rangers have been lacking is the ability to close games in the third period.  They have blown or come close to blowing many leads.  Edmonton came back from a 4 goal deficit, partially due to a four-on-one goal by Connor McDavid.  Despite pulling off the win, they allowed the Florida Panthers to score two goals in the last two minutes of the game, for a total of three goals in the third period.

While the Islanders have not had as successful of a start as the Rangers, they have seen some bright moments this season, especially from their young goalie, Ilya Sorokin.  Sorokin currently has slightly better numbers than Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin, partially due to Shesterkin’s sub-par performance against the Florida Panthers.  Sorokin is also a much more conservative goalie, as Shesterkin brings himself farther outside of the net to retrieve a puck than any goalie.  Sorokin has a 5-2-2 record, one win less than Shesterkin.  However, having a sub-2 goals against average and a stunning .939 save percentage speaks for itself.  A matchup between these two young goalies at Madison Square Garden would be a sight to see.

The departure of Jordan Eberle has had a major impact on the Islanders’ struggles compared to the past two years.  Eberle played a large role in the Islanders’ success, averaging .65 points per game.  This season, he joined the Seattle Kraken after being selected in the expansion draft.  The Kraken are in their inaugural season as the NHL’s 32nd team.

The biggest challenge the Islanders faced was with their defense.  Normally, coach Barry Trotz pairs the Islanders’ top two defensemen, Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, on the same line.  However, after the Islanders gave up five goals in one game and six goals in another, Trotz decided to split the pair to find some consistency.  Most recently, Pelech has been paired with Scott Mayfield while Pulock has been paired with recent signing Zdeno Chara.  Pelech and Mayfield have made a great combination.  Unfortunately, while Chara has had many great years in the NHL as a Boston Bruin, he has not been performing like he once was in his prime.  Chara has had a tough time adjusting to the Islanders defensive style.  One contributing factor could be his older age, or that he is now on his third team over the last three years.  

“Chara is definitely washed and very old fashioned.  He is one of few players left in the NHL not to wear a visor” said junior Alex Christou. 

Chara is going to have to regain some of his old skills if he wants to maintain a significant role in the Islanders’ defense.

Whether you are a Rangers or Islanders fan, there is a lot to be excited for in New York hockey.