November is officially upon us meaning one month of New York Rangers hockey is in the books. What did the month of October teach us?
October brought the New York Rangers plenty of ups and downs. It showed us how a rebuild can truly mess with your brain in thinking one game can affect the next.
Now as November unfolds, we have a bit of an idea of where this Ranger team is headed and what is expected of them. We know who the coach is showing confidence and trust in and who still needs to show up and make more of an impression. We are starting to see why some decisions were made over others due to them paying off.
It might appear to some that nothing has changed as some of the same moves in the past are being made, but that is not the case. This year the communication has been better and, for the most, the message has been received by the young Rangers.
All of this adds up to a month that saw the Blueshirts go 4-7-1—a month in which they could have legitimately won some of the games they ended up losing. They sit at the bottom of the league but, have made legitimate progress over the last couple of weeks.
Here is what we’ve learned from the first 13 games of the 2018-19 season:
1. David Quinn Is Not Messing Around
If David Quinn has shown us anything over the first month of the season, it is that he is not afraid to make moves.
Almost every day it seems like his lines change as he looks to find the right combinations. With the recent success of the last two games, Quinn has kept his lines intact, but that is the polar opposite of what we saw from him in October. Players like Filip Chytil have gone from playing center to getting moved to the wing. He’s moved Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov in attempt to get the most he possibly can out of them.
Not only is he moving players throughout the lineup, but he is making some bold statements in which players are healthy scratches. Kevin Shattenkirk, Neal Pionk, Spooner, and Pavel Buchnevich have been victims of the healthy scratch card. Shattenkirk, Pionk, and Spooner only sat out for a game. but the message was received. Shattenkirk’s play has drastically improved, Pionk has scored six points over the last seven games, and Spooner is gaining some confidence back.
As for Buchnevich, Quinn is trying to send an even bigger message scratching him three times on the young season. The 23-year-old winger has plenty of skill but, is still working on putting together an all-around complete game. This is what Quinn is trying to get out of Buchnevich, who has moved from the team’s top line to the fourth line, to not dressing for three a games.
Clearly, David Quinn wants his players to know they have to bring their “A” game to every game. If they don’t he’s shown he is not afraid to make a move.
2. Brett Howden Is Here To Stay
When Brett Howden cracked the Blueshirts’ opening night roster, most people around the league were shocked.
It did not take too long before Howden showed why the coaching staff felt he was the right man for the job. He scored his first NHL goal in his second game and added a highlight reel goal against the San Jose Sharks.
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) October 12, 2018
The offense is nice, but what was more impressive is that he was able to hold his own against some of the games best centers. On the Blueshirts final road trip of October, Howden faced the likes of Joe Pavelski, Jonathan Toews, and Anze Kopitar. For most 20-year-olds that would be a daunting task but, not for Howden who was able to hold his own against some of the games best. In that span, he was a plus one while winning 48.4 percent of the draws he took.
Not only did he end the month of October strong, but he started November off on the right track collecting his first two-point night.
3. There Is Still So Much More For This Team To Learn
Despite having some premier names on the roster, the Rangers are still relatively young. That rawness to the leagues naturally results in having moments where there will be some struggles.
As the rest of the season unfolds, there will be plenty of teaching moments for David Quinn and the rest of the coaching staff. What Quinn has preached early in the season has been to stop trying for the pretty play and take the shot, and how to close out games. As of the late, the latter has occurred but, has not yet cost the Rangers who have won back-to-back games in the shootout.
While the team still learns how to hold a lead, they will also be trying to get their penalty kill back to being a weapon. The Rangers had the 23rd worst penalty kill in the league in October with 74.4 percent of the opposition’s power plays being killed. That is a significant drop-off from a season ago where the Blueshirts had the 12th best penalty kill, being successful 81.4 percent of the time.
So far, things have gone as expected in the Rangers rebuild. The team has been competitive and there have been some growing pains to deal with. But, a losing record in October does not mean the team is not heading in the right direction.
Young players are being given legitimate opportunities while the veterans are there guiding them. They continue to get contributions up and down the lineup and might surprise you a few times thanks to the solid play of Henrik Lundqvist.
Overall October treated the Rangers pretty well, now let’s sit back and see what November has in store.