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Rangers knew performances didn’t match results

Just over a month into his first season as captain of the Rangers, Jacob Trouba just had to laugh. 

“We talked a lot before the year about how this season was going to be different to the year prior, but I don’t think anybody predicted it was going to be like this,” Trouba told The Post following Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Coyotes at the Garden. “I think we’ve tried to stay level-headed and as positive as possible because we know we have a good group in here that wants to be successful. 

“We haven’t allowed negativity to creep in even when it’s gotten frustrating. That’s been a focal point. We’ve had one team discussion up to now, but there have been a lot of player-to-player talks, a lot of discussion within the leadership group. 

“If we weren’t playing hard, that would be one thing,” continued Trouba, who has been playing through nagging ailments that have kept him off the ice at multiple practices. “But that’s not the case. 

“So we’re not getting down. We know what we have to do as a team. We know what we are.” 

It almost made Trouba laugh that the Blueshirts were able to come away with this one after having lost 2-1 to the Predators in Nashville with a much better effort Saturday night or after losing to the Islanders 4-3 at home on Tuesday with a better performance, or losing in a shootout to Colorado a couple of weeks ago with a superior effort. 

The Rangers celebrate during their win over the Coyotes.
The Rangers celebrate during their win over the Coyotes.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

For the Blueshirts had been outshot 20-4 through the first 28 minutes by an Arizona club that had lost in New Jersey on Saturday. The Rangers had no legs, they had no verve. They did, however, have a vintage (make that, 2021-22) Igor Shesterkin, who likely made a bigger difference in this one than he had all season. 

“Shesty kept us in it and we found the way to stick with it. That was the recipe last year,” Trouba said. “I don’t want to laugh, we want to play a much more solid game, but when you look at this as opposed to some of our other games in which we did not get rewarded, it makes no sense. 

“It makes no sense.” 

Shesterkin elevated his save percentage to .909, just above the league average of .906, with several high-danger stops to prop up his listing team until they could take his cue and run with it. The netminder was never quite under siege, but he tracked the puck well, stood up on first shots and kept rebounds under control. 

“It was Igor,” Chris Kreider told The Post. “That’s what he’s given us much more often than not since he’s been here. 

“We know we can rely on him.” 

Igor Shesterkin anchored the Rangers' win.
Igor Shesterkin anchored the Rangers’ win.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

The Rangers grabbed a 1-0 lead when Barclay Goodrow took advantage of a gaffe by netminder Connor Ingram to snap one by him at 15:05 of the second. Thus energized, the club extended the lead to 2-0 just 1:08 later on Adam Fox’s snapper from the high slot. 

There would be no third-period relapse. Kreider got a power-play deflection for a 3-0 lead, the Coyotes broke the shutout at 8:33 on a power play of their own before Ryan Carpenter closed it out with his first goal as a Ranger. The score may not have been indicative of the degree of difficulty, but the Blueshirts are built to win by riding their goaltending and power play while filling in the rest. 

“The underlying numbers objectively indicate that we’re playing better than our [8-6-3] record,” Kreider said. “We talked a lot before the year about focusing on the process and not the results, but at the same time, we know we need to get results. 

“So I’d say that while we’re not exactly where we want to be, we know we’re a good team capable of playing consistently good hockey. And that’s what Jacob has been reinforcing as captain. His message has been to believe in ourselves, that we are capable of playing to our expectations.” 

The players’ ability to remain relentlessly positive was one of their greatest attributes a year ago. That has been more of a challenge at the outset of this season. The outside noise is louder. The outside expectations are greater. 

“Listen, there is negativity that becomes toxic and undermines a team. We don’t have that in here,” Kreider said. “There has been some frustration, but the key is to turn that into 60-minute resolve and that’s been Jacob’s message. 

“Our focus is on digging deeper, being more committed to details and our system. Trust is critical and I can promise you, we trust each other and our system, when we were going through the rebuild, we were facing backup goalies. Now, we get the opponents’ best game every night. 

“Every night is a battle. We’re prepared for that.”

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