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Rangers Vs. Islanders: That’s A Quality Start

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New York Islanders v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
  • That’s about as quality of a win as you’re going to get to kick off the year. It was a 60-minute effort, top to bottom, with great special teams and an offense that proved it has the tools to take care of the defensive mess.
  • The Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich was the line everyone was talking about both before the game and after. They’re explosive on a level I don’t think we’ve seen on Broadway in a long time. This isn’t a line that’s being carried by one player (think back to the Jaromir Jagr days) but three quality players who all bring a potent offense to the table. Every time they were on the ice something good happened.
  • The Rangers played a really good game. Outside of two horrific series of mistakes, it was a dominating effort. However, when the game was 2-2 you got that sinking feeling that so often appeared last year that the wheels were going to fall off the bus. This year’s team — at least as forward — is far better equipped to handle that situation, and that line came through in the clutch to score the go-ahead goal.
  • It’s a good thing the Rangers’ forwards are ready to take on these new challenges, too, because I have a feeling they’re going to get called on to bail out this defense a lot this year.
  • Kreider was an animal. If this is the new-look Kreider then I’m buying as much stock as I can. He used his speed, was physical and he and Buchnevich have chemistry together you can’t buy. Carp talked about how the two sit next to each other in the locker room and Buchnevich is always watching him. On the ice when players bump Kreider Buchnevich — who is a ball of energy — gets in their face. Kreider’s speed and burn, forehand backhand goal was something special. That would have been the best play of the night if it weren’t for his no-look, through-the-leg, behind-the-back pass to Brandon Pirri for the eventual game-winning goal. Whoa.
  • Since we’re talking about Buchnevich, that’s about as good of a debut as I think you could have expected. He was active all night, is so good away from the puck, moves the puck really well and had a few nice shots on the power play. I place some blame on him for the Islanders’ second goal — that cross ice pass has to hit or you don’t make it -- but he hustled his ass back to try and break it up, and was betrayed by a Dan Girardi failed defensive attempt. It was Buchnevich who threw the home run pass to Kreider for the go-ahead goal at the time, and he was great on the power play.
  • Final note on this group: Zibanejad looks genuinely happy to be a Ranger. I love that stuff. He had two assists, a few good shots on the power play and was outstanding in the defensive zone. The power play very simply looks far more dangerous with Zibanejad on it — more on this later. I really do think the Rangers stole the 23-year-old from Ottawa.
  • Pirri continued his great form. He scored the game-winner on the power play and it was his shot that Jaroslav Halak couldn’t handle for Michael Grabner to open the scoring with. I am ashamed I thought Pirri was top-nine or 13th forward for those two dark days. His on the skilled fourth line with a ton of power play time is perfect.
  • I liked Jimmy Vesey’s game in spurts. He looked nervous the start of the game, settled in, made a few great stick handling moves for space but often forced passed. Vesey was a goal scorer in college and he needs to bring that to the NHL, too. He had no shots on goal in the game, but plenty of shooting opportunities. He needs to take more of those. Also, he needs to stop skating near the boards. He was boarded again last night.
  • I thought Derek Stepan and Rick Nash had quieter games in the offense zone, but were good in their own end. Mats Zuccarello scored a goal and was more active in the defensive zone than a lot of last year.
  • The Rangers move the puck so well now, with skill up and down their lineup, that every line is dangerous. That’s all well and good, but what made it even better is the forwards digging deep to help the defense in transition. We still saw a slew of failed breakout from Girardi, Staal, Nick Holden and and even Ryan McDonagh. I thought Adam Clendening played a great game. Brady Skjei had a rough first period but bounced back well.
  • I loved McDonagh’s game. He was strong on the puck in his own end, did good things in the offensive zone and was fine on the power play. That said, I really think Alain Vigneault should make McDonagh the point man on the second power play unit. He’s spending too much time on the ice as it is right now, and the entire reason Clendening is here is because he can move the puck. Give him that chance.
  • Mark Staal and Nick Holden should not be a pairing anymore. The duo got roasted consistently, couldn’t move the puck out of the zone and were on the ice for two of the Islanders goals against -- and were directly responsible.
  • And now to Girardi. I thought he had an alright first period. But as the game wore on it was back to his old issues. He’s not as strong in the corners as he used to be, he still chases players away from the net (pulling himself out of position) and in do or die situations he can’t make the plays he needs to make. Maybe it was first game jitters.
  • The power play looked its best when Zibanejad was able to get set up in the faceoff circle. When he was ripping shots there it created chaos because he’s a legitimate scoring threat. In fact, the game-winning goal came off his shot’s rebound -- before Kreider made the brilliant play to toss it behind. Last year the Rangers wouldn’t have put the game away there. This year they did.
  • One-game sample size but ... Rangers leaders in Corsi: Clendening (79%), Kreider (73%), Skjei (72%), Vesey (70%), Pirri, Zibanejad, Buchnevich, Zuccarello and Stepan were all between 63%-69%. Lowest in corsi? Miller (34%), Nash (34%), Staal (36%), Holden (38%), Grabner (41%) and Girardi (42%).
  • Just a note: Vesey, Buhcnevich and Pirri were all sort of pulled out of the rotation the final half of the third. That’s fine since he’s running a full skill lineup, and he can double shift Grabner and Fast as needed. At one point Vigneault was using Zibanejad on the fourth line rather than Pirri to have a natural center out there. I don’t mind that at all. That’s why you run a lineup of all skill.
  • Hank was Hank, too.
  • It’s going to be an interesting year. The Rangers are going to be a fun team this year. I’m not sure if they’re going to be a great team but they’re going to be a fun team.