Rangers showed a lot of positives in their first win
The Garden was electric. From the moment I walked into the building and went to my seat draped with a “Play Like A New Yorker” tee shirt, it was palpable. Everyone there was anticipating to see something “new” and “exciting”.
The team delivered.
Money Well Spent
The Rangers spent nearly $20,000,000 to bring in an offensive superstar and a true #1 defenseman. Both Artemiy Panarin and Jacob Trouba lived up to the billing. Panarin certainly drew a lot of attention and that was obvious because for most of the night Mika Zibanejad was left open and unhindered. That led to Zibanejad’s tying goal on a partial breakaway and ultimately a 4 point night (1G, 3A). And while Panarin was facing double coverage often, he dangled the puck on his stick as if he were playing with a yo-yo. He finished the game with 2 points, including his first goal as a Ranger with an absolute laser on the PP.
Defensively, the Rangers need some work. This is a reminder that all 3 defensive pairs were playing with each other basically for the first time. There were misreads and some nervous gaffs, especially by the two rookies, Libor Hajek and Adam Fox. So much so, that Saturday in Ottawa Hajek will play with Trouba and Fox with Skjei as they did late in the 3rd.
Still, Jacob Trouba put on a show and finished the game with a blistering goal and two assists. His play to Zibanejad was a thing of beauty as he not only transitioned it quickly but broke the defense in one shot. Zibanejad did the rest, but much of the offense was driven by #8.
The game winning goal was scored by second year center, Brett Howden who quietly played a rock solid game void of mistakes. It is because of that Lias Andersson sits behind him in the 4C spot. That could change should Ryan Strome continue to struggle. Last night Strome took two terrible penalties and did not look like he could keep up with Kreider and Kakko. I wouldn’t be surprised if Howden and Andersson don’t get promoted as soon as Saturday in Ottawa.
Speaking of youth, Kaapo Kakko was a man-child out there. Although he did not score, he had some chances and looked to be very poised in his own zone and a force in the opponents’ end. It won’t be long before Kakko breaks through on the score sheet.
Odds and Ends
Henrik Lundqvist was excellent in what was a pretty sloppy game by both teams. There were a few times that he was his own worst enemy, like in the 2nd period when he failed to cover the puck and it led to a flurry of chances. Still he made 43 saves and had a beautiful .915 SV%. Given proper rest we should see this version of Hank plenty.
One disappointing note was the fact that Lias Andersson only played 8:33 last night and got benched for the majority of the 3rd. David Quinn has already admitted that was a mistake and going forward Lias will get more playing time. Now will it come at the cost of Strome remains to be seen.
Overall it was a great game and no one should be screaming “Stanley Cup” or “Here We Go Again” from it. There was a lot of areas the Rangers will need to improve on but they found that out while still managing to win a game. This is just one step in a long process and when you look at it with an unbiased view, there were a lot of positives for David Quinn and his charges to build from.