Rangers youth movement is underway
Photo by Bruno Rouby, ESNY,Getty Images

The New York Rangers played in their first game of the season on Wednesday and the 3-2 loss had plenty of good things to build on.

Frank Curto

No one likes losing hockey games. For the New York Rangers, losing games like Wednesday night’s home opener to Nashville has to be taken as a learning experience. The only way the team can learn to pick themselves up is by getting knocked down sometimes.

The Blueshirts battled to the very end during their 3-2 loss to the Predators, in a game that showed all the characteristics of a David Quinn hockey team. The coach preached a relentless style of play from his team and he got that from Jimmy Vesey.

From his first shift of the game, the forward was constantly on the puck, setting up Mats Zuccarello several times, intercepting passes and keeping last years Presidents’ Trophy-winning team pinned in their own end.

On defense, Neal Pionk played a hard, inspired game on the blueline. Never one to panic in any situation, the defenseman showed how valuable he is to the team when he broke his stick during a play and instead of retreating to the bench, he continued the play in defense, intercepted a pass with his glove, then allowed a teammate to grab up the puck as Pionk tied up a Nashville forward. The fans acknowledged the play by cheering for him as he headed to the bench.

The team’s most noticeable problem during Wednesday night’s game was a lack of scoring, the same issues the team has had over the past two seasons. Zuccarello had at least three excellent scoring chances that he was unable to finish. Jimmy Vesey also was unable to find the back of the net in the one-goal loss. Kevin Shattenkirk lead the team in shots on goal with seven, followed by Vesey and Zuccarello with four each.

Scoring will be an issue all season for the team as they don’t have a bonafide scoring talent on the team. Pavel Buchnevich could change that if he continues to play the way his game ended on opening night. The Russian forward scored late in the game Wednesday to cut the Predators’ lead to one with a nice redirection for his first goal of the year.

Buchnevich has the talent to carry the team offensively and the team hopes he can continue scoring goals on a consistent basis. He looked very comfortable on the ice throughout the preseason as well as on Wednesday night.

A Young Squad

The team is really young, something Rangerstown hasn’t seen at Madison Square Garden in many years. How young are these players? Just take a look at some of these age-related stats that represent just how bright the future of the New York Rangers will be.

  • Ten forwards in the lineup on Wednesday were 26 years old or younger: Hayes (26), Fast (26), Spooner (26), Zibanejad (25), Namestnikov (25), Vesey (25), Lettieri (23), Buchnevich (23), Howden (20), and Chytil (19).
  • The Rangers had three rookie forwards play in Wednesday’s game: Chytil, Howden, and Lettieri.
  • Two players started on opening night who were younger than 20 years old: Chytil and Howden.

The first game of the season was against a great team that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals just two seasons ago. It was just one of many hard contests the team will battle in this season.

It wasn’t the result the Rangers wanted, but the game showed a lot of promise for the season. They may not win a lot of games, but the Blueshirts will be competitive and entertaining.

This season is going to be fun to watch.

Follow Frank on TWITTER

A graduate of St. John's University class of '91. I have been a fan of the New York Rangers since the days of Peter Puck. Founder of Ranger Proud, the Facebook page that covers all news, notes, pre /post-game stats, and player quotes. I can be reached at Nyrfc12@gmail.com