Thoughts through the NY Rangers first three games of the season

The 2021 season is only three games old, but it feels like we’ve seen more than that. We say the Rangers at their absolute worst. Then their absolute best. They then gave us a track meet, which is what we should see more of. It’s a bit early to review stats, even if I tried, so overall NY Rangers thoughts seem to be the best bet.

1. Don’t read too much into the first two games of the season. The Rangers are nowhere near that bad and nowhere near that good. We will get flashes of both, especially with such a young team. As much as we want to see the Rangers that played the second game, it’s just not realistic. The third game, the track meet against the Devils, is likely the real Rangers this season.

2. The Blueshirts will still struggle on defense, but they have a ton of talent all around the lineup. Hence, track meets. I think as the blue line stabilizes a bit, we will see better overall defense. But the key is neutral zone pressure. That was on full display in the second game. If they commit to that more consistently, then they will take a giant leap forward.

3. Speaking of committing to neutral zone pressure full time, there is a big discussion to be had about David Quinn and the coaching staff. For two years, they were so bad that I actually believed they were giving up the blue line by design. There’s tons of video! But Vince Mercogliano has informed me that it’s not by design, they just can’t execute. The players have changed. But why isn’t that message getting through? It’s a real question.

4. On to the actual on-ice play. Let’s take a step back and appreciate that the Rangers have four real lines that are, for the most part, producing. There are certainly concerns around certain players, Ryan Strome chief among them. However the lines themselves are driving offense. The defense pairs are better than expected, minus the one glaring problem. Overall, the first three games have been better than expected.

5. That said, the two major holes discussed in the offseason are rearing their ugly heads. Center depth is a concern, as Strome has been more of a coaster so far this year. It’s early, and Artemi Panarin is too good to have Strome be this useless. But on the bright side, Brett Howden has been better than expected on the fourth line. It’s like that’s where he should have been all along…

6. Left defense is also a concern, although K’Andre Miller has certainly made it better. Miller really worked with Brendan Smith in sheltered minutes. That works for both of them, yet Smith is a healthy scratch again. Jack Johnson is a concern this year, and hopefully only this year. Ideally we get Lindgren-Trouba, Miller-Fox, and Smith-DeAngelo (or DeAngelo-Fox / Miller-Smith) at some point.

7. Back to centers, Pierre-Luc Dubois isn’t the answer for the long term unless the Rangers shed salary. Remember that Mika Zibanejad’s contract is up in two years, so trading for Dubois means finding a taker for Zibanejad at some point. That may not be a bad thing –Zibanejad’s contract is going to be huge– but Dubois may not be the best option as his replacement. Who is? Well, I don’t know. This is why center depth is important.

8. The goaltending hasn’t been stellar, but it’s not a concern. Just goes to show how spoiled we were with Henrik Lundqvist.

9. How about that Filip Chytil-Kaapo Kakko connection?

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  • We have lots of money coming off the books so we can afford Dubois. After Mika we are below average up the middle and that’s killing us. It’s been a problem for years. Package Strome, Kratsov and Deangelo to get a center.

  • Agree with your views, and will add I think Phil Diguseppe has been a pleasant surprise. He’s balanced out the third line. Does all the little things right. Pays attention to details. Sort of reminds me of Jesper Fast in those aspects of the game. I think he’s had a very positive influence on Chytil and Kakko too.

  • I do not think we have 4 lines. I think we have 10 forwards and 2 nobody’s. DQ has to roll 4 lines in the first period and then give the 3rd and 4th line guys time as the game goes on. I think DQ puts too much pressure on the kids and himself.

  • We’re too Jekyl and Hyde as a team.. You never know how we’re going to play.
    We will never take a step forward until we resolve our LD issue (JJ)
    Street clothes.. Since Miller/Smith has been a good 3rd pair..why bench Smith.
    We need to stop this revolving door on lines.
    Plus I still think we need a big banger going forward.

    • JJ vs Smith is mind numbing. And if the idea is for Miller to develop into a stay at home defender he’s probably better served, for development purposes, to be spending time with Smith.

      • Agreed! I just don’t get DQ! Your supposed to put your best team on the ice..Smith is better than JJ. We all can see it, but the staff will not..
        PT is supposed to be earned not just given..

  • DQ is a college level hockey coach. He was embarrassed by Carolina in the bubble last year. Now, he can’t get his team ready to start a game for his life. He is not consistent with any lines. The team has no identity, no captain and thats falls on the Coach. He is way over his head. Kids are lost overthinking not letting their natural abilities to take over. Need change behind the bench.

    • I never like the idea of changing the coach, as I feel that the onus is on the players, but in this case, DQ does seem over his head. I think that Gorton and JD need to talk to him about his approach and the expectations of growing young players. It may be okay to lose if you learn. DQ may be feeling pressure to win instead of groom.

  • Actually we haven’t seen anything yet. The best player on the team has played exactly one game and it was an off day due to rust. Of course, DQ is trying to maintain that rust as much as possible. If and when the goalie usage is corrected, the defense will look a lot better.

    Totally disagree on Brett Howden. His main job is not 4th line center; it is PK center. He was the worst on the team last year and has been on the ice for all three goals against this year. His even strength play seems better, but he is playing with better linemates than he had last year. Rooney is an actual hockey player and should play instead.

    The Rangers are trying to develop Lafreniere, Kakko, Chityl, Miller, Lindgren, Fox, Gauthier, Howden all at the same time. This is overly ambitious and leaves players with too few role models. They should be tempted to cut the list. Howden will never be top six. He is unlikely to be particularly good bottom six. One should not compromise the development of the other seven just because you don’t want to give up on him.

  • Rangers have to consider the ELC’s expiring for players like Fox, Kappo, Igor, in addition to Zib’s next contract if they’re in on PLD long term. I strongly felt signing a player like Kouiv for one-year for the same price CBJ did would have been not only a bridge until they figure out the 2C spot next year, but providing a strong defensive forechecking game as a center mentoring a player like Kappo.

    • knowing leadership, they will let Zibs walk, give Howden a 5 year deal and un-retire Tanner Glass….lol

  • We got these young players who we will not find out about because they don’t get played to succeed.

    It’s a shame.

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