Although the Rangers lost tonight’s game in Calgary, we learned a lot of important things about Alain Vigneault and his coaching style. The first, and it’s something we’ve heard a lot about, is that he preaches offense, and getting offense from his defensemen. We saw that on the first goal, when Marc Staal was down by the circles for the goal. We also saw that AV will be a bit more passive on the forecheck, allowing the game to come to his forwards. The surprising part was that AV still ran his 1-2-2 forecheck (Torts ran a 2-1-2) despite being down two goals. Anyway, on to the thoughts from the game:
- I started watching the game right at the powerplay goal, so that just happened to be perfect timing. It appeared that the goal came from a broken play, but it’s worth noting that Staal snuck in from the far point, something that the Rangers didn’t do much of last year. Staal read the play, saw the scramble in front, and crept in looking for a loose puck. He found it.
- Brad Richards is making the absence of Derek Stepan have a lesser impact. The Rangers still need him (depth), but Richards is playing like the top line center they paid for two offseasons ago. Everyone here expected him to have a bounce back year, so let’s hope this is the beginning of some good things to come. We also saw how AV will deploy that line a lot in the offensive zone.
- Marek Hrivik isn’t the sexy name like Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg, or Jesper Fast, but his game is so simple. He doesn’t seem lost out there. Kevin thinks he is the perfect guy to make the team while Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin are injured, and I’m inclined to agree.
- That previous statement doesn’t take away from what the hyped up trio can do, but all three are playing their first North American professional season. Hrivik has a year under his belt, and was already on the team’s radar if not for an ill-timed concussion last season. Fast has really been impressive. I thought he would be the one that needs the most time in the AHL, but he’s proving he belongs.
- The second intermission interview that John Giannone had with Glen Sather was very intriguing. Slats feels that a lot of GMs panic in the bridge-deals and rush to sign their young stars. This part I find interesting, because Slats did mention that every player has signed a bridge-deal. Every forward has signed a bridge deal, but Staal and Ryan McDonagh did not. The market is different for defensemen, but he is incredibly consistent with his forwards. Stepan will get paid, but it’s when he has arbitration rights, not before. Even so, $3 million is more than a 300% increase on his salary last season.
- Slats also spoke about Richards and how he wasn’t prepared for last season and has a lot of faith in him. This is what we thought as well, and I believe Richards makes the decision to buy him out next season very difficult.
- The last bit Slats spoke about was developing and playing the kids. Once those kids make the team, they will surround them with appropriate veterans to fill holes. This is something that has been in place for a while (post-first-lockout), but the Rangers finally have enough kids that they can start keeping only the necessary veterans.
- Face offs. Good lord, win one please. I know these games don’t count, but line matching in the offensive zone doesn’t matter if you can’t control the puck.
- Arron Asham is making his case to stay in New York. But Darroll Powe is right there with him. Same with Taylor Pyatt. All three played very well in the third, and that one shift with about 11 minutes to go was one of the more impressive shifts I saw this game from either team.
- Anton Stralman got caught with swivel head syndrome. That third goal, where MDZ was behind the net pressuring the puck carrier, Stralman was just kind of watching the play. Matt Stajan crept in and was side open. Doesn’t help that the aforementioned Asham was behind the goal line as well.
- Chris Kreider was relatively invisible this game, and Fast replaced him on the top line in the third period. It doesn’t matter if you are given the ice time with the top players, you need to do something with it. The clock, she is-a-ticking.
It’s worth noting that the Rangers appeared to be a step behind the Flames. I only caught the final third of the game, but it looks like that step behind wasn’t limited to the third period. With three more games in four nights, those legs better start getting used to some hockey.