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Rangers Vs. Oilers: The Offense Keeps Pulling Through

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NHL: Edmonton Oilers at New York Rangers Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
  • On the podcast Wednesday we got into talking about whether or not we thought the Rangers' success was going to be sustainable. Not on a level like last year -- this lineup is vastly superior up front -- but from the standpoint of what happens when the Rangers aren't strangling the life out of their opposition by four our five goals. I argued the Rangers had only been in one really close game like that against Carolina and they lost. So on cue the Rangers went out and played in just such a game. Thanks for supporting the podcast, guys!
  • The response? The Rangers came back from three one-goal holes, including an answer 44 seconds after Edmonton took a 3-2 lead. The Rangers had a horrific first 30 minutes -- Edmonton did a wonderful job exposing Dan Girardi on the top pairing -- and then something magical happened: Alain Vigneault adjusted mid-game. He shielded Girardi from the monster that is Connor McDavid, benched Mika Zibanejad, Jimmy Vesey and Chris Kreider (to be fair they didn't have the best second period) and the Rangers offense started really pushing back to help on defense. Eventually, the Rangers wrestled control of the game and when 20-93-26 came back out onto the ice midway into the third they were so fresh it was like cheating.
  • While they were benched a lot of people were up in arms. I didn't totally understand the move either, but I argued it wasn't a big deal when the Rangers had four actual lines to work with. In their place Jesper Fast, Brandon Pirri and Pavel Buchnevich played significantly more minutes and they promptly scored a vital goal in the third to propel the Rangers to the win.
  • So the Rangers tie the game and start really feeling it -- and they were already in control of the game at this point in terms of possession and chances. Kreider gets stopped on a glorious Cam Talbot save, Michael Grabner gets stoned and Edmonton has to think they've survived the worst of it. Then out comes the Rangers "first" line (honestly the Rangers have like three first lines), Nick Holden fires the puck onto goal and Nash -- who is providing the screen -- gathers the rebound and slides it home.
  • The Rangers had a dominant possession game despite Edmonton kind of staying with them in terms of chances. It felt worse than it was (call it the McDavid effect) because expected goals were 3.08 to the Rangers against 1.34 for the Oilers.
  • I do think Vigneault is in something of a good pickle in terms of his forward group. Right now Zibanejad has had a few quiet games and Kreider had his most quiet game of the year. There’s an easy answer to this, but something complicates it: He can't break up the Grabner - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller line because well ...

But it's clear that Buchnevich is the best player to gun with Kreider and Zibanejad. Zibanejad is struggling right now, not in terms of his overall play but more his puck luck (although he was a forward-worst 45% corsi last night). It might be a good idea to get Buchnevich back there to re-create the most explosive line the Rangers have (which is saying something). The issue? The only way to do that is to shift Grabner down to the fourth, raise Buchnevich to pair with Zibanejad and Kreider and push Jimmy Vesey or Mats Zuccarello (they've rotated with that group) to the third line. Not that it's a bad thing to do any of that, but with 40-13-10 dominating like this you really can't break them up. Like I said, not the worst problem to have to leave things as is.

  • Days like this are where I really miss Carp. I'd imagine the Daily Nash-O-Meter's needle has broken off. Also, I've never seen this much emotion out of Nash ever. Have you ever seen him fist pump like that? That's not one of those horrific "he didn't care last year" arguments. He's just far more vocal about it this year.
  • Skjei has sort of developed into a really good piece of the puzzle. He has six assists in 11 games, has shown a really slick puck-moving habit and is possessing the puck well. Apparently he had the flu in the preseason and had a tough time adjusting and that was part of his struggles. Well, he's back now, and the Rangers have needed him to be big. His work with the puck has been nothing short of spectacular, and he's showing far more offensive skill than I thought we'd see. He led the team in corsi and was tied for the lead with a +10 in shots.
  • Grabner has been an incredible signing. Not sure what else to say at this point, other than the fact he’s added a level to this team they simply haven’t had in the past.
  • I have 100% backed off my theoretical trades of Miller. Sorry about that, guys. He leads the Rangers with 12 points in 11 games and is a monster every time he’s on the ice. I am a fool, I was young and I feel shame.
  • Kevin Lazy Hayes had another three point night. He currently sits one point behind Miller for the team lead. He simply does things with the puck no one else does. It’s too bad he’s so lazy though. I mean, the stats speak for themselves:
  • I was just thinking “if Jesper Fast doesn’t start doing something I think he’s going to sit for Oscar Lindberg” and then he scored, so ...
  • Girardi had a forgettable game. Edmonton really made it a sticking point to go at him all night and he had a lot of trouble handling their speed. On the 2-on-1 (where he was left out to dry) he panicked and dove, missing the puck and creating a 2-on-0. Adam did some work and Girardi turned a 14% chance at a goal to a 66% chance at a goal. Just not smart.
  • Holden had a solid game possession wise. Maybe it’s my memory bias, but I remember about three mistakes that had me shaking my head. I want to see Adam Clendening in the lineup and I want to see him in for Holden (or Girardi) but if Holden keeps playing like this I’ll be less loud about it.