Top-six troubles, problems for Artemi Panarin, Filip Chytil’s future, more

The Rangers fell into an 0-2 hole after falling to the Hurricanes Friday night, 2-0. But now the series shifts to Madison Square Garden for a crucial Game 3 Sunday afternoon. How have the Rangers gotten into this predicament? Can they claw their way back? Let’s get into all that and more by answering some questions (edited for clarity and aggregated based on the general topic) submitted by our Texts from the Blue Seats subscribers…

My concern is top line production! If the Rangers go on to lose this series, the blame is on their six most highly paid players. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad haven’t shown up when it matters most. Is this team already doomed long term?
— Filippo LoPreiato, Kerry DeMarco, Dinny FitzPatrick, Paul Gifford, Joseph Meliambro

Doomed is a little too dramatic of a term for me, but how the Rangers marquee players have performed this postseason isn’t an encouraging sign. That’s because these players are locked in long term, so this is the Rangers’ core for the foreseeable future. The Rangers have gotten a bulk of their production from their top two lines this season and without it they’re not nearly as dangerous. Still, that top-six production (paired with goalie Igor Shesterkin’s heroics) got the Rangers to this point. And you need players who are going to perform in the regular season just as much as in the playoffs. 

However, the playoffs are where it matters and there’s no doubt the blame will fall on the top guys if the Rangers lose this series. That being said, we don’t know who is battling through injuries, and there’s a good chance some of them are after the grind of their first 82-game season in two years. This is also their first legitimate playoff experience with this group and they can only get more familiar from here on out.