David Quinn walking fine line between developing and winning as Rangers edge Sabres 3-2

By Anthony Scultore
Apr 1, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; The New York Rangers celebrate a win against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers thoroughly dominated the Buffalo Sabres except for the final score. Dustin Tokarski battled as hard as any goalie in the league as he was bombarded with pucks from the late first period on. The Sabres goalie faced a total of 47 shots and help salvage a point for his team who tied it with 4 seconds left and the goalie pulled.

Rangers vs Sabres: Panarin picks up second assist on Zibanejad’s game winning goal

Luckily for the Rangers they have a game breaker in Artemi Panarin who set up the first and last goals of the night. The Breadman fired off 7 shots of his own but Tokarski was big for Buffalo who just broke an 18 game winless streak the day before. Despite his heroic efforts it was only a matter of time with the Blueshirts all over the Sabres from around the 10 minute mark of the first on.

Panarin first set up Colin Blackwell to tie the game in the second period before coming in two on one with Zibanejad who blasted the OT winner past Tokarski. Last year’s MVP finalist has picked up right where he left off and is actually getting better. He is tied for the team lead in points with 34 but has done so in just 25 games.

Since becoming a Ranger he’s racked up 129 points in 94 games. Panarin is also on the cusp of topping Mark Messier with the most assists in his first 100 games with the team. He needs four more helpers to tie Messier’s 92 and he has six games to do it in.

David Quinn walking the tightrope of developing and winning at the same time

The joy of the win was overshadowed for some as soon as the buzzer sounded. That’s because Alexis Lafrenière, who picked up an assist in the win only played 8:11 in the game. The 19 year-old rookie has 11 points in 36 games this season – which in context isn’t bad considering his age and the dynamics of a COVID shortened schedule. Night in and night out the kid is playing against some of the best teams in the NHL. The Capitals, Bruins, Islanders, Penguins, and Flyers were all supposed to be killing each other for a playoff spot and they are. However, the Rangers for all they’ve dealt with this season are three points from getting into the postseason.

David Quinn is not just Alexis Lafrenière’s coach. He’s the Rangers coach and has to answer to a locker-room that has players like Panarin, Zibanejad, Kreider, and Trouba on it. How does he look Panarin or Kreider in the face and say I’m taking minutes away from you because Alexis has to get a minimum of 14 minutes every night regardless of the score or our position in the standings? He can’t no matter how much fans stomp their feet.

David Quinn
Feb 18, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Rangers head coach David Quinn against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

“We’re in a position where it’s all about winning,” Quinn said about his team. “I know people talk about the young players and development but it’s the National Hockey League and we’re three points out of a playoff spot. I know everyone looks at the minutes and makes a big deal out of that – but not everybody is going to get the minutes that everyone wants them to have – there’s just not enough minutes in the game and that’s how it is.”

This is a fact that some people just refuse to accept because all they see is Lafrenière was the first overall pick and there’s an unwritten rule that makes him as good as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews. That he must automatically be played in the top six logic be damned. All the while it’s overlooked that both the Oilers and Leafs tanked in order to get those guys and were legit bottom feeders in the league with no real talent ahead of them once selected. That was not the case with the Rangers and it will continue to be that way as now Vitali Kravtsov is banging on the door.

It’s a fine line that Quinn has to walk here. And while fans are screaming about Lafrenière’s ice time they are ignoring the fact 20 year-old Kaapo Kakko played an effective 18:29 last night. Meanwhile two other rookies played prominent roles in the win as Igor Shesterkin stopped 21 shots for the win and K’Andre Miller played a forceful 22:24 with a plus 1 rating.

Winning is a much a part of a player’s development as ice time. Growing in a winning culture is important. Want an example of just how important? Look at last night’s opponent the Sabres and tell me how things are going since they drafted Jack Eichel 2nd overall? He’s on the verge of asking for a trade and the Sabres are looking at their third sell-off since they drafted him.

The NHL Trade Deadline is drawing near. Check out the NHL Trade Bait Tracker to get up to speed.

Post Game Notes

  • The Rangers have won each of the last two games, five of the last seven games (5-2-0 record), and six of the last nine games (6-3-0 record).
  • he Blueshirts were 1-for-1 (2:00) on the penalty kill in tonight’s game and held Buffalo to only one shot on goal during the Sabres’ only power play opportunity. The Blueshirts have not allowed a power play goal in 22 of their last 29 games (78-for-88; 88.6%).
  • Colin Blackwell tallied a goal, drew a penalty, recorded four shots on goal, won three of five faceoffs (60.0%), and posted a plus-one rating.
  • Mika Zibanejad tallied the game-winning goal in overtime, led all skaters with 17 faceoff wins (17-for-24; 70.8%), and recorded five shots on goal in 25:22 of ice time. 
  • Adam Fox tallied an assist on the game-winning goal in overtime and skated in a game-high 28:27 of ice time. He extended his career-high point streak to nine games (two goals, 14 assists over the span), and he has also registered 24 points (three goals, 21 assists) in his last 19 games.
  • Ryan Strome notched an assist, drew a penalty, recorded three shots on goal, and posted a plus-one rating in 22:22 of ice time. He extended his point streak to 11 games (two goals, 14 assists) and his assist streak to 10 games. Strome’s 11-game point streak and 10-game assist streak are each career-highs.

Rangers will practice today, 12:00 p.m. at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, NY.

Next Game: Saturday, Apr. 3 at Buffalo (7:00 p.m. ET – TV: MSG 2)

Notes courtesy NYR