- I wasn’t really sure what to expect opening night, if we’re being honest. The Rangers were going up against one of the top teams in the league — who are as well coached as anyone in the NHL — and hung with them for 60 minutes. The Predators are a remarkably frustrating team to play against, they’re relentless on the forecheck, and they use their sticks better than anyone in recent memory. They put out so many fires before they became issues by simply poking the puck off sticks before breakout passes could happen.
- All that said, Nashville never really got into an offensive rhythm, and scored their two non-empty net goals off a set play from the faceoff and a broken defensive assignment. All told it was the Rangers who had the better, and more fluid, offensive chances in the game. Nashville dominated the possession until late in the third when they put the landing gear down, but despite that the Rangers had a 2.87 to 1.87 expected goals edge. Simply put: Nashville had the quantity but the Rangers were the team with the quality.
- Which means it’s sad the Rangers were on the losing end of that effort, especially since the officiating was so damn incompetent. I really try to avoid blaming the officials, but when Nashville takes a critical 2-1 lead seconds after the officials miss a blatant high stick on Adam McQuaid, confer about it, and then decide nothing happened, it’s frustrating. The Rangers got a single power play in the game despite the missed high stick, Pavel Buchnevich getting his face smashed into the boards on a hit from behind, and the Rangers hurting themselves in the final minute. Oh well, it happens.
- First look at David Quinn and I was really impressed with his defensive usage. Marc Staal (who was dreadful) saw the least amount of ice time at evens, and was still an issue that’s going to have to be dealt with. He’s going to become an even bigger issue if he’s stapled to Neal Pionk — who played pretty well all things considered.
Final #NYR even strength time on ice— Gritty Fan Account™️ (@brandonco4) October 5, 2018
- The Predators did a brilliant job shutting down the KZB line, with the trio getting nothing going all night. That said, Mika Zibanejad and Buchnevich were just quiet; Chris Kreider on the other hand was noticeably bad. He had a few critical turnovers, couldn’t handle a few other breakout passes, and just didn’t do anything positive with the puck on his stick. And look, games like that happen. The Predators did a great job keeping them off the scoreboard (until Buchnevich’s garbage time goal), but they weren’t getting crushed in their own end, either.
- Brendan Smith wasn’t preseason Smith, but I didn’t think he was bad. Smith, Staal, Brady Skjei, and Pionk all missed critical early reads that Henrik Lundqvist had to bail them out of. Throw Ryan Spooner, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Brett Howden there, too. But again, that’s normal and to be expected. The Rangers are moving to a zone, and there’s going to be lumps as they figure out who is supposed to be where. Like I said, Lundqvist was there when the Rangers needed him to be.
- Filip Chytil had a breathtaking assist on the Jesper Fast goal, and played really strong on the puck all night. I would have loved to see a little more flash out of him, but the Predators were doing a wonderful job shutting the Rangers’ offense down for shifts at a time, and Chtyil got lost in the mix a little. That said, the kid literally turned 19 two weeks ago, so.
- I have a strongish Jimmy Vesey take: I thought that was one of Vesey’s best and worst games ever. He was easily the most noticeable forward through the first 30 minutes, was all over the ice, and generated/was on the end of about three Grade A chances. That was the good. The bad was that he didn’t finish any of them. Is this a harsh take? 100%. But here’s the thing: Vesey needs to score because the other side of his game isn’t good enough. And that is especially true if he’s going to be on the second line. When I made this point on Twitter a lot of people replied with “if he plays like that every night he’ll score 30 goals.” And that is a correct. The problem with Vesey, though, is that those games are far and few between. Let’s hope that changes.
- Onto Pionk: I thought that was a fine first game for him. Being with Staal isn’t going to help him long term, but if you had reasonable expectations for him then last night was fine. He struggled early and still hasn’t found that quicker trigger with decision making along the boards. A few times Pionk got pinned there and lost the puck because he was waiting for a lane to open so he could make a play. Sometimes you just need to toss it out of the zone if you’re in trouble, or back out to make space to do something. He jumped into the rush well, though, and moved into space to generate shots/openings. I still think Anthony DeAngelo is a better option here, but we’ll see what comes of that situation.
- I was worried about him, but I didn’t think McQuaid was a disaster last night at all. He didn’t make a ton happen, but he didn’t really let a ton happen, either.
- Lundqvist, by the way, was exceptional. The game could have been a hell of a lot worse, all things considered.
This will be a frustrating loss because the officiating was nonsense. The good news is that means NYR weren’t bad — and they weren’t. Hung with Nashville all night. Good on them.— Joe Fortunato (@JoeFortunatoBSB) October 5, 2018