Everyone understood the New York Rangers were a young rebuilding team, but the learning curve the team is experiencing early in this season represents a tough reality.
The New York Rangers have started the season 0-3. The team struggled to score goals in their first two games then showcased a scoring outburst netting five goals against Carolina on Sunday night. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes put eight behind Alexandar Georgiev (one was an empty net goal) in his first game action this season.
It’s hard to blame one player for the tough start to the season as all was not as bad as it seems. The Rangers took 80 shots on goal in the first two games scoring only three goals. They have given up six goals in the first two games before the shootout in Carolina.
The team, rebuilding or not, has had issues in all three zones of the ice.
The team has been playing with plenty of intensity and has shown the ability to control the game, that is until the Caroline Hurricanes game Sunday night where the wheels fell off the wagon as the team was caught running around the ice one too many times.
The Rangers have had some good hockey players perform well over the first three games of the season. Jimmy Vesey, two goals scored in Carolina, has been the team’s best player. Skating with physicality and relentless hockey, Vesey has been everything coach Quinn had hoped he would be. Leading the team out of the gate on opening night Vesey has been setting up his teammates with great opportunities and only a lack of finishing has prevented Vesey from piling on the points.
Brett Howden has been a pleasant surprise. He scored the first goal of his career against Buffalo on Saturday and followed that up with an assist in Carolina Sunday. He has been doing everything the coaching staff has asked of him, and now we can see why the organization decided to go with him instead of Lias Andersson with regards to making the team at the conclusion of training camp.
Henrik Lundqvist has played up to his potential in the two losses he has appeared in. He has only given up two even-strength goals (aside from two empty-net goals) while making the save of the year on Buffalo’s Evan Rodrigues on Saturday night.
Pavel Buchnevich has been playing like a man in a mission. Recording two goals early in this season, he has been a strong presence on the power play. He is playing with more intensity and with purpose as he leads his attack with and without the puck. The man seems like a new person now that coach Quinn has allowed him the freedom to play his game.
Chris Kreider started out the season poorly, to say the least. The Jeckle and Hyde player was invisible the first two games of the season. He finally broke out and scored two goals in the 8-5 loss to the Hurricanes on Sunday, but the inconsistent roller coaster ride his game consists of has to improve. Too many times Kreider goes unnoticed through several games, a pattern he must correct if the Rangers want to get out of this horrible funk they have started in this season.
Kevin Hayes was benched for most of the second and third period on Saturday night against Buffalo. The unrestricted free agent at season’s end has not had a strong start to the season. The team signed him to a one year contract to avoid arbitration and he seems to be playing with his future on his mind. The center has not scored a goal yet and seems to be playing a step behind. He needs to help lead the team instead of dragging behind and the coaching staff is not going to give him much in terms of lazy play and mistakes. He is coming off a career season and expectations for his play this year are very high.
A notable mention would go to Alexandar Georgiev who struggled mightily in his season debut Sunday. A horrific long wrist shot that he simply missed with 30 seconds to go in the second period with a 4-3 lead added to some tough play in goal. He needs to get better fast if he is to serve as the backup the team expects him to be.
Vladislav Namestnikov started the season on the fourth line in opening night, was a healthy scratch in game two and then was inserted into the lineup Sunday where he barely saw eight minutes of ice time. He did manage to register an assist, but considering what the Rangers gave up in a trade to get him, his play has been very disappointing. The questions of whether he was a good player on a great line in Tampa Bay or a fair player who was lucky enough to play in the top line in Tampa Bay will be continued to be discussed all season long
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has been struggling in all areas of the ice. Slow skating, poor coverage, and confusing decisions have cost the team goals against and his own playing time as was the case Sunday when he only played a little over seven minutes. His main focus is in the power play, where that suffered until Sunday night, west he watched from the bench as the team scored one power-play goal. He was a minus 2 in his short time on the ice.
A very tough start to the season which was expected. The concern here is the struggles not from the rookies like Howden, Filip Chytil or Vinni Lettieri but more like Shattenkirk, Namestnikov, and Kreider. The veterans are the ones who need to show the rookies and younger players the ropes. Instead, they have been the ones with the struggles in the early part of the season.
The season is young so, for now, no panic should be shown or necessary. The team needs to step it up or Clint Eastwood himself could not step in and save this team from being in a bad spot in the division in a few months.