Despite yet another strong performance from the New York Rangers, the Broadway Blueshirts were edged out 2-1 by the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden.
What a difference a year makes.
Just a season ago, the New York Rangers opened up the year playing sloppy hockey. Chaos reigned in front of Henrik Lundqvist on defense, while the Blueshirts looked slipshod in the offensive zone.
Although Alain Vigneault‘s squad sported an eye-popping 16-2-2 record through 20 contests, the Rangers were getting severely outplayed, benefitting from stellar goaltending from the King and an unusually high shooting percentage.
This year, the script has flipped. The Rangers have come out flying early on. Offensively, their speed and puck movement has been extremely encouraging to watch, while the back line has done a solid job as a group to make Henrik’s job easier than it was at this time last term.
The Rangers have been dominant in each of their first four games. However, they find themselves at 2-2 due to superb opposing (backup) goaltending.
On Saturday, the Rangers fell to the St. Louis Blues, despite owning a 15-0 shot advantage in the third period. It was a game that they deserved to win, but Blues’ secondary netminder Carter Hutton had other plans.
Then last night, the Blueshirts lost to the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in yet another game that they should have won. After Mika Zibanejad put the Rangers ahead early with a crafty redirection, it appeared they would cruise to another home-ice victory. But Red Wings’ puck-stopper Jimmy Howard stood on his head, stopping multiple breakaways to continue his dominance at Madison Square Garden, and Detroit got two by Lundqvist on 18 shots to pick up their second win of the year.
This loss was an even tougher pill to swallow than on Saturday. The Rangers could have easily had six goals in the first forty minutes of action. Instead, a silly boarding penalty by Adam Clendening in the second period and a mishandling of the puck by the King early on in the third period ended up costing the Rangers big time.
All in all, this was a well-played game for the Blueshirts, and there is a lot of positives that can be taken out of last night’s performance.
First off, it’s evident that Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad have something special on the top line. They have both showed huge strides from last year (especially Kreider) at both ends of the rink.
These two have been spectacular together ever since Alain Vigneault put them together in the preseason finale.
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) October 20, 2016
Let’s just say AV has a tough decision when Pavel Buchnevich comes back. The young Russian was starting to mesh really well with Zibanejad and Kreider before he was forced to sit out with back spasms. Rick Nash, though, has also fit in nicely on the top trio in Buchnevich’s place. So that will be something to look out for going forward.
Mats Zuccarello had himself a fine game as well. He threaded the needle perfectly to set up Kevin Hayes for a wide open net (that he missed) on a two-on-one in the first period. He also came up with a beautiful loop over the top to set up a Jimmy Vesey breakaway and had a great, hard pass to Brady Skjei that was deflected off the left pipe. He was active on the puck all night and reeked havoc in the offensive zone.
Michael Grabner was once again solid on the penalty kill. His speed is a difference maker when he’s on the ice, even with his lack of hands. Brandon Pirri, on the other hand, had his worst game as a Ranger. He was nonexistent in five-on-five play and couldn’t find any sort of rhythm on the man-advantage.
The line of Kevin Hayes, JT Miller, and Jesper Fast put in a solid effort at both ends of the ice. Hayes and Miller have both improved drastically defensively and that has been exemplified early on.
Besides the fatal blunder behind his own net, Lundqvist put in a solid performance. He had no chance on Thomas Vanek‘s sharp redirection on the power-play and made every save he was supposed to make, despite facing only 18 shots.
I had no real complaints on the defensive side of the puck. The third pair of Brady Skjei and Adam Clendening impressed with their puck-moving ability and mobility on the ice. Kevin Klein also looked like his old self in his season debut.
Yes, the Rangers may have deserved a better result in this one. However, there is plenty to look forward to on Broadway.
Let’s just hope they don’t run into many more backup goalies.