When I first started the blog in my early 30s, I had no issues staying up past 2 a.m. after every game (drunk or sober) creating post game content. Now that I’m at the advanced age of 41? Yeah, not so easy. So, randomly throughout the season (aka when I pass out on my couch watching the post game report) I’ll be foregoing my traditional game recap in favor of a multi-game state of the Rangers overview.
In my first installment, I’ll take a look at where the Rangers stand after splitting two games this weekend against the Maple Leafs (8-5 loss) and Canadiens (2-0 victory)
1. Remember when the defense was going to be the strength of this team?
Things got so bad in Toronto Saturday night, AV decided to go with the rarely used 11 forwards, 7 defensemen lineup against the Habs on Sunday.
While I have no arguments with sitting Smith, whose preseason struggles have carried over into the regular season, I’m not a fan of dressing the extra defenseman. Yes, Anthony DeAngelo had a horrific turnover that lead directly to a Maple Leafs goal Saturday night, but he’s otherwise been terrific, especially creating offense off the rush, so dressing him solely as a power play specialist while giving Kampfer a regular shift is AV typical.
I mean, just because the club is carrying 8 defensemen, doesn’t mean everyone should get a chance to play.
And despite the Rangers shutout vs. Montreal, I wouldn’t say it was a dominating defensive performance as they gave up 63 total shots including 34 on goal.
2. So at this point AV would rather play with one less forward than dress Filip Chytil. Remind me why he’s not on a flight back to the Czech Republic yet?
And don’t get me wrong, if AV and the organization feel he’s not ready for the NHL, I’m more than fine with that, but shit or get off the pot. Four minutes a night and healthy scratches are no way to develop an 18-year old prospect.
3. As far as my preference? I’d like to see Chytil go back overseas and develop his game in familiar surroundings similar to fellow first round pick Lias Andersson.
While we’ve only seen him in limited minutes, in my opinion, Chytil’s been overmatched and doesn’t seem quite ready for the NHL just yet.
Plus, his fill-in JT Miller has forged some nice chemistry with Rick Nash, and right now gives the Rangers the best chance of winning.
If the Rangers do decide to move on from Chytil, the corresponding move should be to recall Vinni Lettieri until Jesper Fast is ready to return from injury.
4. But fear not Rangers fans, despite an inconsistent start, it’s far from all doom and gloom as the power play has been down right lethal. That’s correct, the words “Rangers power play” and “lethal” were just in the same sentence.
Don’t believe me?
What a difference one player can make on the power play. Shattenkirk’s ability to get the puck through the neutral zone allows the Rangers to enter the offensive zone with speed. And once they have possession in the opponent’s end the New Rochelle native knows how to get the puck to his teammates in a spot they like.
While McDonagh did a yeoman’s job running the man advantage last season, having a true power play quarterback on the blueline has been impressive to watch.
5. And the biggest beneficiary has been Mika Zibanejad, who is developing into a #1 center right in front of our eyes…
Hey Mika, what are your thoughts on starting the season with four goals in three games?
6. So how good was Mats Zuccarello on Saturday night in Toronto? He made Marc Staal look like Brian Leetch.
7. Besides his putrid player usage, Vigneault’s in-game adjustments have also left a lot to be desired over the years. Which is why it was so encouraging to see the Rangers do a complete 180 from the first period in Toronto to the second. But as a reader astutely pointed out…
While Ruff deserves his own criticism for the defense’s (ahem) rough start, his 19-years of head coaching experience will serve AV well when devising counters to an opponent’s game plan during the intermission.
8. I think it’s safe to say at this point in his career Lundqvist is only going to be as good as his defense. Earlier in his tenure with the Rangers, it didn’t matter how incompetent his defense was playing. He’d always rise above it to save the day. I’m sorry folks, those days are over. No further proof is needed than the first period in Toronto. Sure, all five of those goals were of the difficult variety, but in the past he’d save at least three of those to keep his team’s head above water. Now, in what has become a disturbing trend, Lundqvist is being relieved at an alarming rate.
This doesn’t mean Lundqvist is suddenly a sieve, as evidenced by his 34-save shutout the next night, but let’s be honest, despite the large volume of saves against the Canadiens, the dangerous shots were not as prevalent. Sure, Lundqvist will come to the Rangers rescue at certain points this season, but to still expect it on a nightly basis is beyond foolhardy.
9. Net front presence:
It looks like the Rangers have. And through three games, it’s paying dividends…
10. We’re the three best friends that anyone could have…
11. Easily the highlight of the early season is watching Dave Maloney walk aimlessly around the Rangers locker room looking for players to interview postgame…
The look on Miller’s face is priceless.
12. Just a reminder that it’s a mere three games into the season. AV isn’t getting fired (not yet anyway). The lines and defensive pairs are going to be jumbled until chemistry can be found. The new faces will need some time to learn AV’s systems. This is still very much a work in progress. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are Stanley Cup champions. At least wait until New Year’s before stepping onto the ledge.
This public service announcement was brought to you by Head & Shoulders.