Thoughts following the first two games of the season

The Blueshirts are back, baby

With the first two games in the books on the 2019-2020 season, we are starting to see what this Rangers team is going to look like this year.  A really fun offensive team with major holes on defense and above-average goaltending.  There will definitely be some lineup shuffling as the season goes a long, but it is nice to see the top line clicking, especially Artemi Panarin.  A slow start could have jump started the New York tabloid machine, but he has come out looking mighty impressive to start the year.

Even though it’s just two games, you can rightfully assume that I have some thoughts…

1. The Rangers really are who we thought they were, huh?  I don’t take much stock in being able to keep Ottawa’s offensive stifled given their violent plunge into complete competitive irrelevance.  You could see in the Jets game fairly clearly how they are going to struggle in their own end.

Now, granted, the defense did look better when Trouba was paired with Libor Hajek, but Brady Skjei has not had a good start to the season and Adam Fox is still finding his way.  While the defense is definitely on the upswing overall, there is still likely to be some significant issues this year.

2. How about that power play? It almost made me forget all those years of guys simply passing the puck around the perimeter and firing low probability shots into shin pads.  The puck movement was dynamic, players were moving and seeking out soft spots on the ice.  There was more royal road lateral passing on the man-advantage this past week than I think I’ve seen in a decade.

I like Quinn’s willingness to throw 4 forwards out there on PP1.  I think Panarin gives them a different dimension as a point distributor and half-wall shooter, and Jacob Trouba is a perfectly capable compliment to that structure.  Possession and chances on the power play, who knew?

3. I’m going to continue the media’s praise heaping of Mika Zibanejad.  He has been just so, so good.  I have to assume that he generates the majority of his power from those blonde highlights in his flow.   I don’t see how else he could be doing these things.

4. I don’t think I can overstate just how badly the Rangers need a 2C.  It doesn’t even have to be an actual 2C, just something better than Ryan Strome.  Hell, put Lias Andersson there and just see what happens. I could certaintly see him clicking with Kakko.  After a couple scotches, I could probably be convinced that Patrick Marleau could be a legitimate upgrade down the middle.

As much as I wouldn’t think of breaking that top line up at the moment, given the success they have had, the complete void that is Strome has me concerned about Kakko’s overall development.  You can see flashes of the things he is capable of out there, but there has to be a competent center between him and Chris Kreider.  Otherwise, you have two dynamic wings with no distribution.

5. The Rangers actually enjoy a fairly favorable schedule over the next couple weeks.  Before seeing Washington, the Rangers get the Oilers and Devils.  The following week, they will face Vancouver, Arizona and Buffalo before more difficult matchups with the Lightning and Bruins. 7 out of 10 against non-playoff teams to start the season for a young group is probably best-case scenario stuff.  A couple of lucky bounces and Dave’s prediction of a 9-0-0 start might start to become a possibility…

6. I thought that Henrik Lundqvist looked quite good against Winnipeg, despite the one soft goal. He tracked the puck well with simple, compact movement and let the game come to him.  He didn’t get antsy out there, as he is wont to do when his defense struggles around him. He made a number of really difficult saves in key situations to keep that game from slipping away.  I do think he should be looking 50 or so starts this year to keep his body in one piece, but he is off to a good start.

Same with Alex Georgiev.  While not tested as much in Ottawa, it was exactly the type of performance the Rangers will need when Lundqvist is on the bench. Just a competent showing with a big save or two against lesser competition.  For what it’s worth, I do believe Georgiev is capable of more than that, but with a weaker defense and a young team, I think that is a reasonable ask from the young netminder.

7. I can’t recall who I saw make this statement on Twitter, but a prescient fan had opined that every game the Rangers will either win or lose 7-5.  It was obviously hyperbole, but I don’t think that reality is that far from the truth.  In every contest, the Rangers will need a combination of goaltending and scoring that can out pace their deficiencies defensively.  How frequently they can do that ultimately remains to be seen, but if the first two games are any indication, it will be a hell of a lot of fun watching them try.

That’s it for me, gang. Enjoy your Rangers-free week!

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  • If I’m centering Kreider & Kakko, this his how I play: flip the puck deep(but softly) to Kreider’s corner and let him go fetch it. He & Kakko then play a 2 man game while I’m in the high slot and rotating below the goal line.

    That’s it.

    • As far as the 2nd line goes, I think Krieder and Kakko have some growing pains right now. I am thinking DQ might have foresaw this and didn’t want the early failure of the line to fall on Chytil’s shoulders (or Lias for that matter). He will let them learn on Strome’s dime for a while. I suspect in about 4 games they learn to play with each other. Strome will either learn how to pass or will be replaced. You put a good (not even great) center in between those 2 and good things will happen.

      • Wow. Interesting take. Makes sense. Let’s wait and see. Good things are gonna happen forKreider and Kakko either with (doubtful) or without him (Chytil?) and it will probably happen sooner than later.

  • Georgiev is the better goalie right now.

    Hank is rusty. As is always the case at the beginning of the year. At least he was holding his glove up high and not sitting in his crease so far back.

    Gorgiev had better movement across the crease and better tracking of the puck throughout the game.

    Were we watching the same games?

    If you are going with the hot hand, Georgiev starts the next game.

    No offense to Hank. He was an elite goalie. But everyone has a shelf life. Everyone gets old. Everyone slows down. Everyone’s body eventually fails then.

    The question is do you go out on top or get taken out.

    I really hope he does well as they will play him. But my faith in him isn’t there yet.

  • Your idea of putting Lias on the second line is a sound suggestion. He has shown that he can play the position in the AHL, when given playing time, and would be a very nice compliment to the twin bull dogs Kakko, and Kreider. Strome has shown he isn’t a good 2C, put him out there on a wing, or the bench for that matter, but take him off of the second line.

    I’m not here to predict what may happen in the future, but I can see Kravs be given a shot at the position if Chytil doesn’t work out to be an effective 2C NHL player. The Kravs kid has played the center position in the past, is defensively sound, and has skill to spare. Chytil in my opinion is afraid to get hit, won’t battle along the boards, and is a skilled perimeter player. Well if that’s his game, move him to the wing position, and leave him there because his defense is lacking, and he is more of a closer than a disher. This isn’t an indictment on these kids, I so want both of them to succeed, and the sooner DQ sees this, the better the team will be.

    The season is only two games old, no need to panic, but correct what is a glaring problem by getting Strome off the second line, replaced by either of the following, Lias, Howden, and or Names. I believe any of the three would be a vast improvement……………………………

  • Only 2 games in but so far at least it’s fun, and the positives outweigh the negatives.

    I believe we’re operating under two delusions. 1) Names, Strome and Smith can become valuable trade comodities, and 2) Chytil, Kravtsov, Anderson and Howden are all ready now and only need a good opportunity to succeed.

    If we abandon those two delusions, we are left with the clear fact that we don’t have a legit 2C on the roster, so what do we do? I say move Names up to 2C, since he is at least solid defensively and potentially a better supplier of pucks to Kreider and Kakko than Strome. 3rd /4th lines: Strome-Howden-Lemieux / McKegg-Andersson-Fast. Give Cytil and Kravtsov a good 15-20 games in Hartford and reevaluate. Smith stays as 13th F/ 7th defenseman.

  • re the 2c .. they need to address it sooner than later. strome is not a distributor and that line cant accomplish anything. give vlad a look there idc. everyone has pointed this out including the sportsnet cast.

  • Some things have stood out for me through the first two games:

    Jacob Trouba is a stud. No question about that. That contract will pay dividends over the years because he is highly skilled and only 25. It was brilliant to get that young man on the team.

    Panarin is much more costly of course. He does have a deadly accuracy in his shots and his passes, so the Rangers obtained elite skills when they signed him. They certainly did pay for it!

    The Zibanejad trade is one of the all time great steals in hockey. That boy is flying, Keep him healthy and watch him do his thing.

    “Giving up the blue line” puts the defensemen on their heels virtually all the time. I don’t like that defensive scheme.

    Hank can still pull off a great game. Georgiev is also the real deal.

    Ryan Strome is not a center.

  • I won’t dispute your assertion that Lundqvist is the better goalie today, though I do think you are sweeping one fact under the rug. The Ranger defense really struggled when Hank was in net, not so much when Georgiev was. Yes, one played against Winnipeg and the other against Ottawa, but this is a pattern that has held up since Vigneault took the reins (and that was long ago). It is better to have a goalie who does not have to make great saves than one who can make them.

    However, the more important point is that Hank gets frustrated and no longer has the mental stamina to do the job well over an extended period of time. In the last All-Star game, Hank showed that on the right day, he is still the best goalie in the world, maybe ever. But he cannot maintain it for months, perhaps not even weeks anymore. It has been three years since any team in hockey could have won the Cup with Lundqvist in net – 16 wins in a two month stretch is simply no longer plausible.

  • Whenever a kid messes up, it is growing pains. He just needs more time. But somehow after two games, Ryan Strome is the demon. Relax. The Rangers have two wins. There is not a great choice for 2C – we know that. DQ needs to explore the options – both using different people together and using the same people together in different ways. And it isn’t just about the second line either – the third line should also work and hopefully the fourth. Let Quinn do whatever he wants for the first ten games and if it isn’t working, complain then.

    Also, one of he best ways fans can promote a losing team is to criticize the players incessantly. It is important to make Strome feel unwelcome in NY so that he will play as ineffectively as possible. Every indication is that Ryan Strome is an overpaid forward who played hard for the Rangers last year. He was actually a good trade acquisition as he was obtained for the even more overpaid Ryan Spooner. I at least want him to play hard again this year and feel as though he is a valued member of the team. It is better to pay a $2M forward $3M than it is to pay a $700K forward $3M.

  • Names and a 3rd round pick to Nashville for Nick Bonino, put him at 2C for this year. His salary is $4.1M per compared to $4M for Names. Only problem is I’m not sure how many more years NB contract is for. Nashville is very deep at C and light at Wing. Kyle Turris could be had but that’s too much $$.

    • The Bonino contract is for two years. If the Rangers resign Kreider and don’t undergo a major shakeup, the route to cap compliance next year is escaping the Names and Strome contracts. So replacing Names by a player with a two year contract is a potential disaster.

      Moreover, commitment to the rebuild means not deviating from the course to solve short term problems.

  • It’s great that they’re 2-0, but if they play like this for 82 games then Zib and Panarin better score 250 goals between them.

    The other lines need to pick it up, and the starting point is putting in the proper players at the proper spots.

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