CHICAGO — At this point in his tenure as Artemi Panarin’s linemate, which dates back to just 10 games into the 2019-20 season, Ryan Strome has developed a unique chemistry with the Rangers’ star winger — both on and off the ice.
Strome has said he just knows when Panarin is going to have a dominant game. He knows Panarin’s tendencies and how to play off of them. And Panarin seems to always know where Strome is on the rush.
There is an on-ice connection between the two that has blossomed from their familiarity and friendship.
“I mean, we sit beside each other in the dressing room so we’re always talking and stuff,” said Strome, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. “I know the ins and outs of how he’s feeling, sometimes I can judge by his answers how he’s feeling. Even when he won’t admit it. I think we’ve been playing good lately.”
Good is an understatement. Even though Strome’s bout with COVID-19 in October sidelined him for four games, the “Bread-and-Butter” tandem has been on the ice together for 13 goals and just four against in 239:09 so far this season, according to Natural Stat Trick. Panarin and Strome, who both serve as alternate captains, are also key players on the Rangers’ top power-play unit.
The Post’s Larry Brooks reported last week that Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury has had preliminary discussions with Strome’s camp about keeping the 28-year-old center alongside Panarin well beyond this season. It’s possible Rangers brass has come to the conclusion that they may not find another player who complements Panarin better than Strome has — and No. 16’s play has indicated as much.
Strome and Panarin have played the fourth-most minutes together at five-on-five of any forward combination in the NHL since Panarin signed with the Rangers in July 2019. Prior to the Rangers’ matchup with the Blackhawks Tuesday night, Panarin and Strome had been on the ice together for 85 goals and 46 against in 1421:54 since former head coach David Quinn united them on a line, per Natural Stat Trick.
In the Rangers’ previous game against the Blackhawks on Saturday at the Garden, Panarin and Strome together had a hand in two of the team’s three goals, while the former contributed on all three in some capacity. And that 3-2 win was far from the first game in which those two spearheaded the Rangers’ offense.
“I haven’t noticed it,” Gallant joked when asked about Strome and Panarin’s apparent chemistry. “No, it’s great, it’s awesome. They look for each other. They’re good friends and there’s nothing better than when you get chemistry. It’s the same as [Chris Kreider] and Mika [Zibanejad], guys like to play with each other and they know they’re tendencies.”
Added defenseman Adam Fox: “From day one, since I’ve been here, they’ve been a dynamic duo.”
While Panarin entered Tuesday’s rematch against the Blackhawks leading the Rangers with 26 points (seven goals, 19 assists,) Strome has five tallies and 12 helpers for 17 points. The two were also tied for the team lead in game-winning goals with three each.
Strome and Panarin. Panarin and Strome. Bread and Butter. They just go hand in hand.
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