Following an exciting opening night win on Thursday, the New York Rangers head out for their first road game in Ottawa while looking to correct a few miscues.
When it’s all said and done, the New York Rangers earned their opening-night victory. Still, coaches just love it when he can scream and point out errors on tape after a victory.
Consider David Quinn lucky.
The win over the Winnipeg Jets at Thursday’s home opener concealed several flaws that occurred throughout the contest.
Struggles on both offense and defense need to be cleaned up while this young team looks to improve every game.
Behind The Net
What seemed to be an ongoing issue all night was the failure to get the puck out of their own end. Several times, the puck would be on the boards in the corners and eventually, behind the cage.
In almost every instance, the Jets would have a two-on-one against a Rangers defenseman. The battle was won almost every time by a Jets player, resulting in a scoring chance or extending the play and forcing tired Blueshirts to stay out for extended periods of time.
The failure to get the puck out of their own end was the responsibility of all five players on the ice at that time. It appeared, especially in the second period, that the centers were not coming down low to help the defenseman behind the net.
What sometimes inflamed the situation were the few times the second defenseman vacated the front of the net to assist his partner behind Lundqvist. This resulted in a free Jet player in front of Hank and more scoring chances for Winnipeg.
If not for Henrik standing on his head, the final score might have not been so favorable.
The Jets had 47 shots on goal, an outstanding amount considering it was the opening game for both teams. A high percentage of theses shots was a direct result of the hard Winnipeg forecheck while overmatching the Rangers defense behind the net.
The Rangers centers have to play the whole length of the rink. It’s crucial that they recognize this and pick up where their assignments are right away.
The centers are crucial to Quinn’s defensive system. Mika Zibanejad, as expected, enjoyed a good night inside his own end of the ice.
Ryan Strome Had An Off Night
Second-line center Ryan Strome suffered through a tough opening night. It began with him being called for two minor penalties in the game’s first six minutes.
He was centering Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko. The center seemed a step behind the play several times throughout the contest as his two wingers can up the speed when needed.
The defensive issues behind the net fall on Strome, as it does the other centers, but his lack of speed cost the club some opportunities.
Lias Andersson, aside from his pregame introduction trip, played a crisp game while centering the fourth line. He is absolutely looking over Strome’s shoulder.
Why Is Brendan Smith On 4th Line
Yes, Smith tallied an empty-net goal. No, it doesn’t justify the coaching staff purposely using Smith in his current spot.
A team’s fourth line is supposed to eat up some minutes and keep the opposition off the score sheet. In recent years, the fourth line, in the Rangers’ case, has been a reliable unit that can skate and generate offense. This won’t happen with Smith on the wing.
The coach’s decision to change things up could be more based on the play of Libor Hajek. The defenseman, paired with Adam Fox, battled inconsistency all night.
Should the Rangers decide to give Hajek and early rest, Smith could slide back to defense and Haley could take the fourth-line wing with Brendan Lemieux and Andersson.
If the coaching staff wants Smith in his lineup, then keep him at his position and use Hajek as the extra defenseman. This would give Smith the opportunity to focus on just one position and allow one of the two healthy scratched players to get ice time.
Also, one would imagine that Haley and McKegg are better with the puck than Smith, which is another reason why he needs to stay on the blueline or be sent to the press box.
No one wins makes the playoffs after the first game of the season, or even after the first month. A team can lose enough games in the first month of the season to miss out on the playoffs when April comes around.
But at least David Quinn has reasons to get on his team after a win.