Rangers Vs. Avalanche: Not Their Night
- Sometimes it just isn’t your night. You can say the Rangers were sloppy. You can say they were disjointed. You could easily say they’re going to need some time to find chemistry with one another. I think all of that factored into why they lost the game Thursday night. However, I also think you could watch that game and surmise that, even though the Rangers didn’t play their best hockey, they should have won that game. Sergei Varlamov was outstanding, and was easily the difference for Colorado, especially in the third period where the Rangers attacked the Avalanche at will. It happens, move on.
- At even strength the Rangers recorded a 56% corsi and enjoyed a 52% edge in scoring chances for. The KZB line dominated every aspect of this game (two goals from Mika Zibanejad and an assist from Pavel Buchnevich) and that showed on the advanced stats sheet. Kreider (72%), Zibanejad (72%), and Buchnevich (70%) led the way for forwards in terms of possession. (Paul Carey, by the way, was 71% for in a little over five minutes of even strength ice time).
- Zibanejad was a monster, and easily could have scored five goals (not an exaggeration). He scored his two power play goals by setting up in his office and ripping the puck. The Rangers didn’t really work the power play to set him up there -- they tried the back door a lot with Kreider, which was strange but not exactly ineffective — but I’m curious to see how that group settles in.
- Buchnevich, I thought, was one of the best forwards on the ice. Just a dominance from him we didn’t get a chance to see last year. Tons of vision, a sneakily lethal shot, and all-around big-body goodness.
- Speaking of the power play, it’s amazing how much of a difference Kevin Shattenkirk makes. With him at the point not only was the entire unit moving into space, but the Rangers actually were able to hold onto the puck in the opposing zone for the full length of the power play, and managed to generate some brilliant chances. The first goal of the game was a better power play than we saw all of last year. Maybe all of the past three years, really.
- I thought Shattenkirk had a fine first game. Give him some blame for not clearing the crease on the first goal (although to be fair, he had two men down low on his own), and him and Ryan McDonagh weren’t the team’s best pair (they’re going to need some time to gel — remember, they didn’t play together at all in the preseason) but give it time. In every other aspect of the game, he was relatively dominant. It’s amazing what happens when you have a defenseman who can keep the puck out of the corners, go get it if they need to, and, most importantly, effectively move the puck up the ice. He was outstanding.
- As a holdover opinion from last year: I do not like the J.T. Miller - Kevin Hayes - Michael Grabner line. When they’re at their best they’re too run and gun for my liking, and last night they made nothing happen. They did control the play and all finished with positive possession, but I didn’t like what I saw from that group. I think it would behoove the Rangers to swap Jimmy Vesey with Grabner; giving the Rangers a speedier fourth line (Grabner and David Desharnais would be over matching opposing bottom six groups down there) and Vesey would add a different element to the third line. Hayes also led forwards in shorthanded ice time, which I’m not fond of. We’ve talked at length about him being forced into that defensive role despite it not working, but without Jesper Fast it’s hard to tell how this will shake out. Something to keep an eye on.
- About Filip Chytil and his 7:40 of ice time (second lowest on the team): There were a lot of penalties in this game, and Chytil isn’t on either special teams unit. That, in and of itself, is part of the reason why his ice time was so low. At even strength, his 7:40 was in line (but still lower) than Desharnais, Zuccarello and Vesey. Here’s what I don’t understand, though: Why isn’t he on the second power play unit? I’ll be the first person to tell you he was quiet as a mouse last night (not a bad thing) but if you’re going to keep him up for this nine-game test then you have to, you know, test him. He should be centering the PP2 unit, he shouldn’t be benched late in the third for Desharnais (who was good!), and he needs to play. That’s why here’s here. And if you think this is an overreaction after the first game of the season, let me introduce you to Alain Vigneault.
- Anthony “please call me Tony” DeAngelo, however, had a really good game. Sported a 57% corsi, saw 2:26 on the penalty kill and 2:00 on the power play, and overall played 16:22. I thought he was really good top to bottom. Good first showing.
- Also, Vigneault at least got the defensive usage right. Shattenkirk led the way with 23:48, McDonagh was next at 21:45, Brady Skjei 17:32, Brendan Smith 16:28. DeAngelo 16:22, and Marc Staal 15:20. Yep, that’ll play.
- I don’t think Henrik Lundqvist tracked the puck well at all. He made a few great saves, but the game-winning goal was one he absolutely needs to have. Not sure you can place any blame on him on the first goal, and no one is stopping the second goal, but he looked shaky all night. /