Slow start dooms Rangers in Season Opener, lose 4-0 to rival Islanders

By Zak Chiger
Shesterkin and the Rangers fall to the Islanders (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

It’s been 10 months since the Rangers played a game at Madison Square Garden, and one might’ve thought that David Quinn’s squad would be ready to go as soon as the referee dropped the puck.

There was plenty of buzz surrounding the team with the debuts of K’Andre Miller and Alexis Lafrenière. Igor Shesterkin’s taking over for Henrik Lundqvist, top guns Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, and Chris Kreider leading the charge, this was set to be a big night for the Blueshirts and their fans.

However, Barry Trotz and the Islanders had other plans, as the cross-town rivals beat up on the Broadway Blueshirts to the tune of a 4-0 shutout.

Game Highs

Julien Gauthier – The most noticeable Ranger on the ice was forward Julien Gauthier, who the Blueshirts acquired in the trade that sent Brady Skjei to Carolina. He only played 10:12 of TOI, but he made the most of it with four hits, two shots on goal, and he drew a penalty. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like the Rangers had some of their better offensive shifts when #12 was on the ice.

Rookie Fever – The dynamic duo of K’Andre Miller and Alexis Lafrenière made their respective NHL debuts in this one. Both certainly had some nerves, and it showed in the first period. But as the game went on, both players settled in and played a respectable game. Lafrenière finished with one shot and one hit, while Miller finished with a shot, a hit and a takeaway.

alexis lafreniere
Alexis Lafreniere long awaited debut (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

Alexis Lafrenière made his NHL/Rangers debut in tonight’s contest. Lafrenière was selected by the Rangers with the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He became the first player to be selected by the Rangers with the first overall pick in the NHL Amateur/Entry Draft since the universal Draft was adopted in 1969 (in which all junior players of qualifying age were eligible for selection).

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Igor Shesterkin – The opening 20 minutes were rough for the young goaltender, to say the least, giving up three goals on ten shots. Perhaps, like many of his teammates, it was a lot of nerves, but Shesterkin was able to settle down and get back to the form we saw last season with a solid final 40 minutes of goaltending.

ALSO READ: ALEXIS LAFRENIERE ERA BEGINS

Game Lows

Top-Six MIA – The Rangers’ top-six didn’t have the start to the season they would’ve hoped for. Kaapo Kakko now playing alongside Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome didn’t last very long as David Quinn was juggling his lines in hopes of sparking his offense. Pavel Buchnevich, Chris Kreider, and Mika Zibanejad were shuffled around as well, as neither of the two top lines was able to get much of a foothold in the offensive zone. These six are the players the Rangers are going to be counting on most this season, so it will be crucial for them to step up in the next game and start re-establishing the dominance they had for most of last season.

Jack Johnson – There was a lot of joking around over the summer when the team signed the veteran defenseman to a very modest one-year, $1 million contract. It was certainly a very low-risk move for the Rangers to bring in a veteran defenseman the many talented young blueliners within the organization. But in his first game wearing the Rangers’ red, white, and blue, the Indianapolis native had a very poor showing. Johnson’s dump in deflection hit the linesman, springing Mat Barzal for his first of the season, as well as taking a penalty in the opening two minutes of the contest to give the Islanders a man-advantage which they would capitalize on with Brock Nelson’s tally. I wouldn’t expect to see Johnson in the lineup Saturday night.

Lack Of Discipline – If the Rangers want to have success this season, they need to stay out of the box. David Quinn’s squad took eight penalties, including a too-many-men, and the Islanders were able to capitalize twice on those man-advantage chances. Nevermind the fact that it puts your team in a hole having to play a man short, it keeps players like Panarin off the ice for extended periods of time. Staying out of the box will be crucial if the team is going to have success this season.

Post Game Notes:

  • The Rangers had two 19-year-olds in their lineup tonight (Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière). Tonight marked the third time in franchise history that at least two teenagers played with the Blueshirts in a season-opening game (1942-43 – Oct. 31, 1942 at Toronto, Bill Gooden, Joe Bell, and Lin Bend; 1943-44 – Oct. 30, 1943 at Toronto, Don Raleigh and Billy Warwick).
  • The Rangers had seven players 22 years old or younger play in tonight’s game (Filip Chytil, Adam Fox, Brett Howden, Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafrenière, Ryan Lindgren, and K’Andre Miller). According to NHL Stats and Information, tonight’s game marked the first time in franchise history that the Blueshirts had seven players 22 years old or younger all appear in a season-opening game. In addition, the Rangers had four rookies (Julien Gauthier, Lafrenière, Miller, and Igor Shesterkin) play in a season-opening game since 1989-90 (Oct. 6, 1989 at Winnipeg – Miloslav Horava, Mark Janssens, Troy Mallette, Darren Turcotte), and tonight’s game was the first time that the Rangers had at least one rookie forward, at least one rookie defenseman, and at least one rookie goaltender all play in a season-opening game since 1981-82 (Oct. 6, 1981 vs. Detroit – Mark Pavelich, Reijo Ruotsalainen, Peter Wallin, and Steve Weeks). Lafrenière and Miller both made their NHL debut tonight; it was the first time the Rangers had two players 20 years old or younger make their NHL debut in the same game since Oct. 11, 1984 vs. Hartford (Dave Gagner and Tomas Sandstrom).
  • All of the Rangers’ six defensemen in tonight’s game are American-born (Tony DeAngelo, Adam Fox, Jack Johnson, Ryan Lindgren, K’Andre Miller, and Jacob Trouba). Tonight’s contest marked the first time in franchise history that the Blueshirts had six American-born defensemen play in the same game.

*Post Game Notes courtesy of the NYR

Rangers will hold a 12 PM practice tomorrow at the MSG Training Center.

Next Game: The Rangers are right back at it on Saturday night against the Islanders at MSG. Puck drops at 7!

LETS GO RANGERS!!