Rangers Beat Winnipeg To Open 2019 Season
After all the pregame ceremonies finished and the smoke machines and spotlights were stored away, it was time for hockey. The Rangers opened up their 2019-2020 campaign against one of the best teams in the Western Conference; the Winnipeg Jets. The Rangers would come out on the positive side of a 6-4 scoreline and earn the first two points of the season.
Marc Staal – The first goal of the new campaign came from an unlikely source when the veteran defenseman netted the first tally for the Blueshirts. Working a give and go with Mika Zibanejad, Staal went behind the net for a gorgeous wraparound goal in the first period.
Staal had a solid defensive game as well. He had his stick in a good position all night and paired very nicely with Tony DeAngelo.
Artemiy Panarin – It may only be the first game of a long season, but Artemiy Panarin is already living up to all the hype that has rightly surrounded him in his short NHL career. Panarin got the first Rangers powerplay goal of the season, hammering home the loose puck from the circle and past Hellebuyck.
Jacob Trouba – Talk about making an impression. In his first official game with his new squad, Jacob Trouba records three points against his former club. Trouba scored on a slap shot from the point that went “bar-down” to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
Trouba was also very strong in his own end, playing physically and smartly while defending. He may not be considered by many to be a true 1D yet, but if he continues playing like he did tonight, those doubters will be silenced rather quickly.
Mika Zibanejad – Despite not being named the team’s captain to the chagrin of many Rangers fans, Mika Zibanejad turned in a fantastic performance with a gorgeous goal and three assists to help lead the Blueshirts to victory. Zibanejad took a lead pass from Trouba and beat Hellebuyck top shelf on the backhand to start the Rangers rally and tie the game at four.
Brett Howden – He didn’t have the best camp, and was invisible for some parts of this game, but Brett Howden showed up when it mattered most. The young center found the rebound from the Jesper Fast shot and slid it into the net to give the Rangers a 5-4 lead late in the third.
Brendan Smith – Speaking or unlikely sources, it was Smith that sealed the win with an empty-net goal. With the Blueshirts short-handed after a weak holding call on Fast, Zibanejad got the puck ahead to Smith who found the net from center ice.
Kaapo Kakko – He didn’t have the best game, but he certainly didn’t have a bad game. The 2019 second overall pick got hit hard a couple of times but showed off the skill that had him so high on the draft boards. He is still adjusting to the NHL game, and once he is done making the necessary adjustments, he will be a force for the Blueshirts.
Libor Hajek – Perhaps it was the level of competition, perhaps it was opening night jitters, perhaps it was neither, but the young defenseman didn’t have a good game. Despite having the secondary assist on the Zibanejad goal, it seemed like Hajek turned the puck over a few times, and looked generally uncomfortable for the first 40+ minutes of the game. If he wants to be a mainstay for David Quinn’s blue line, he needs to get himself right as soon as possible. Because if not, guys like Ryan Lindgren and Yegor Rykov are waiting for their first taste of NHL action this season.
Quick Responses – The most noticeable flaw in the Rangers game tonight was the inability to sustain the momentum from a goal. The Rangers had the lead in the second period for a combined 39 seconds before the equalizers from Winnipeg. The Rangers will need to work on carrying over the momentum into the next shift. Otherwise, their leads will be as good as gone almost every night.
Henrik Lundqvist – The King has had better performances in the past, but when it was crunch time, Lundqvist buckled down and made the necessary saves to give his team a chance. Henrik made 43 saves against the high-powered Winnipeg offense, including a couple of doozies.
Lundqvist did allow a soft goal on the third Winnipeg tally, but all in all, it was a solid night for King Henrik as he won the 450th game of his storied career.
Next Game: The Rangers head north of the border for a tilt with the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. Puck drops at 7!
LETS GO RANGERS!!