Lost in the NHL playoff push, the team's new coach, and the additions of Sean Avery, Nik Antropov, and Derek Morris, are Blair Betts and Fredrik Sjostrom, the two most under-appreciated New York Rangers.
Throughout the season, the Rangers' penalty kill has been one of, if not the best, in all of hockey. They currently sit No. 1 in the NHL with a penalty kill percentage of 87.1, just ahead of the Minnesota Wild who have a penalty kill percentage of 86.8.
The biggest reason for this is the play of Sjostrom and Betts, who appear to give more than 150 percent on every penalty kill.
Betts is now in his fourth season with the Rangers, spending most of his time on the fourth line. It seems like whenever there is a shot from the point during a penalty kill, Betts is not only already there defending but is also waiting to sacrifice his body for the block.
Betts is not only a strong penalty killer, but he can also be considered a threat on offense. He has nine points on the season with five goals and four assists, but much of that came while short handed (two goals, one assist).
He is also a very reliable player who is rarely injured. In the 71 games the Rangers have played this season, Betts has played in 70. It never ceases to amaze me how someone that gets so beaten from blocked shots is able to get up the next day and do it all over again.
The other key player in the Rangers' penalty kill is Sjostrom. Sjostrom was acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes late last season and has provided the Rangers with a nice burst of speed and youth.
He has shown that he has multiple weapons, starting on the penalty kill. Like Betts he is willing to give up his body for the greater good of the team. He also has three short handed points (two goals, one assist).
On the season, Sjostrom has seven goals and three assists for 10 points in 68 games.
Sjostrom has the potential to be a second line winger one day because the speed is there, and he certainly has the skill to put the puck in the net. If you surround someone like Sjostrom with other goal scorers and playmakers like Scott Gomez or Chris Drury, then he could be a very deadly weapon.
Another strength he has is his shootout scoring. This season, Sjostrom is 4-of-10 in the shootout. He is so effective because of his quickness, which he uses to draw the goaltender either out of position or forces him to make the first move.
If the Rangers make the playoffs and end up making a long run, these two players deserve much of the credit. Without the strong penalty kill, the Rangers could very well find themselves nowhere near a playoff birth.