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Ryan Strome’s confidence renewed after slow Rangers start

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A major factor in the Rangers’ struggles to start the season was the lack of contributions from the second line that almost always features Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.

After going pointless through five of the first six games of the season, Strome has managed to get back on track, riding a four-game point streak into Monday’s matchup with the Islanders at Madison Square Garden.

The 27-year-old center put up two goals in the win over the Capitals last week. And it appeared that his confidence benefited greatly from that performance, especially after fielding question after question regarding his slow start.

“I’ve been around 500 games now and I’ve seen the highs and the lows and to be honest with you, I think [I’m] just worrying about what the coaches are saying now, not what’s said in the media and on Twitter and all of that stuff,” he said following the win over Washington. “I think I learned that early in my career, just to stay away from that stuff during the season.

“I think the last few weeks or last few games have been just starting to find a little bit more confidence. Obviously, every time you make such good plays, I think we’re starting to find those little touch passes, two-man cycles and some give-and-go’s. I think that’s what makes us successful.”

aretmi panarin and ryan strome make up a formidable second line
Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome
Getty Images

The Rangers are simply at their best when their second line is firing on all cylinders. During the 2019-20 regular season, the Rangers registered 150 goals. Strome and Panarin combined for 50 of them, or one-third of the team’s total.

With four goals and two assists through the first 10 games of this season, Strome was two points away from 100 with the Rangers as play began Monday night. That would make him the first player in NHL history to reach 100 points with both the Rangers and Islanders.

Strome, who the Isles drafted fifth overall in 2011, has been on the ice for 25 of the Rangers’ 76 high-danger chances this season, according to Natural Stat Trick. A majority of those opportunities have come recently, which can be directly correlated to Strome finding his footing.

Strome and Panarin have had their right winger switched up a handful of times as head coach David Quinn attempted to replace Jesper Fast, with Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere and Pavel Buchnevich all seeing time there. But Kakko, who spent most of training camp in that spot but quickly lost it, has begun to stick.

“No matter who they put on that [right] side, those two guys work off each other so well,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said of Panarin and Strome prior to the game. “And they’ve just grown, I mean, Panarin is an elite playmaker. I think he’s, other than maybe [Leon] Draisaitl and [Connor] McDavid, he’s probably right up there in assists in the league.

“But he’s got an underrated shot, that’s what makes him really a difficult guy to sort of handle is that he can score. He can take you one on one. But I think his forte, he likes to make plays.”

Entering Monday, Panarin had recorded a point on 15 of the Rangers’ 29 goals this season (51.7 percent), which makes him one of just three NHL players — along with Draisaitl and McDavid — to have registered a point on at least half of his team’s goals.

Since signing with the Rangers as a free agent in July 2019, Panarin has been one of the most consistent players on the team. But last season proved that the Rangers get the most out of him when Strome is at his best as well.

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