Rangers Championship Mission opens in Chicago

McDonagh will have his hands full with Kane (Getty)

McDonagh will have his hands full with Kane (Getty)

We all know what this team’s goal is. We all know how close they’ve been to it since 2012. Still, with all this in mind, head coach Alain Vigneault is keeping it all in context. “I really believe in the one day at a time mentality,” he said in a presser before departing for Chicago. Tonight, that mentality begins in earnest.

GM1: Rangers at Blackhawks, 8PM

The Rangers open their season in appropriate fashion by facing the defending champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. While the Blackhawks have lost some key pieces from last year’s team (Brandon Saad, Brad Richards, Bryan Bickell,and Michal Rozsival) they are still led by their big three in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith. Regardless, of Kane’s off ice issues, he is a huge threat every time he takes the ice. Matter of fact, pro athletes dealing with outside adversity usually find focus and solace on the playing surface. So expect this to be a great test for the Blueshirts.

“The important thing is for what our group believes and thinks,” Vigneault said. “From our goalie out we all believe that we are a good team and focused.” Now the Rangers will put blades to ice and reinforce the belief tonight.

NYR v CHI GM1 (DailyFaceoff)

NYR v CHI GM1 (DailyFaceoff)

FTNYR 3 BURNING QUESTIONS

How will the All-American Line of Kreider/Stepan/Hayes perform?

We all know that the Rangers 1st line has a proven track record of chemistry and success. However, a repeat of last year’s Presidents’ Trophy run will be contingent on the 2nd line. At this time, I know Derek Stepan will be able to get the puck to both Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes. What I don’t know is how quickly the line will find chemistry so that they can instinctively exploit opposition defenses with their size and speed. Facing the likes of Keith and Brent Seabrook will tell us a lot.

How is Mats Zuccarello‘s mental health?

This preseason, Zuccarello answered the bell on his physical well being. However, these games count and the game speed will increase and improve dramatically over the exhibition contests.

According to AV, Zucc is “ready to go.” The head coach expanded on that by saying how he has improved every day in camp. “He is happy and smiling and working hard and that is what I want from him and I am sure everything will be fine.”

Let’s see old Zucc tonight and put this question to rest.

How will Oscar Lindberg perform?

The line of J.T. Miller, Lindberg and Viktor Stalberg had an excellent preseason. If this trio can carry this into the regular season, I simply don’t see how teams will be able to defend against the Rangers.

I think a lot of their success will ride on Lindberg’s play. Is he really NHL ready? We will find out tonight and it doesn’t have to be flashy. His goal tonight is to minimize mistakes and create offense for his linemates. If he can do that, it will then fall on J.T. Miller to continue his maturation as a player.

As for Stalberg? He hustled to earn this spot, but something tells me that he may taper off by November or even earlier. When that happens, make way for Emerson Etem to assert himself back into the lineup on a regular basis.