Despite dropping a tough, 2-1 decision to the Chicago Black Hawks last night, the Garden fans got a taste of why the Rangers made a strong push to sign Jimmy Vesey.
The 23-year old rookie was the best player on the ice for the Broadway Blueshirts and was rewarded for it. Head coach Alain Vigneault double shifted Vesey in the third period with the Rangers trailing by a goal. “Jimmy had a good game”, Vigneault said, “you could see that he had his legs, was skating well and taking pucks to the net”.
“Tonight I really felt good out there”, Vesey said after the game. “Was confident with the puck handling it and definitely helps my confidence when you keep going back out there and just getting into a rhythm and not skipping a beat so to speak and I thought this was the best I felt all year”.
The Rangers needed to pick up the slack for a short handed lineup. Captain Ryan McDonagh, who went through the pre game skate, was a last minute scratch because of flu like symptoms. The lineup got even smaller when defenseman Brady Skjei was clipped in the face accidentally by Kevin Hayes’ skate late in the first period but he returned with a full face guard in the latter part of the second period.
With the game scoreless early in the second period, Vesey showed off his speed as he blew past Black Hawks’ defensemen Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson into the offensive zone but his shot was stopped by Chicago goaltender Scott Darling.
Later, Vesey was on the doorstep when Darling robbed him with a left pad save to preserve the lead.
In the third period, the 2016 Hobey Baker winner combined his puck handling skill and skating ability to maneuver his way in front of the Black Hawks net but he couldn’t put a back hander past Chicago’s goalie.
“It’s frustrating because I would’ve liked to have tied the game”, Vesey said. “Even though he’s [Darling] their back up so to speak, he’s a high quality goaltender and he definitely made some big stops tonight”.
After refusing to sign with Nashville, who drafted him in 2012, and Buffalo (after the Predators dealt his rights) earlier this year, Vesey became an unrestricted free agent in August. As many as seven teams were in the running for his services, but the Rangers pulled out all the stops including a recruiting pitch from other New York athletes like Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard (who was at the Garden last night) and celebrities like “Entourage” star Jerry Ferrara.
Four days after he became a free agent, Vesey came to an agreement with the Rangers.
The Harvard grad got off to a fast start in his NHL career as he scored six goals in his first ten games, but Vesey has hit a wall with only four goals in his last 20 games.
The reality of life in the NHL really hit home when Vesey was benched for periods of time in some games because his play was not up to snuff.
That was not the case last night as Vigneault is starting to gain more confidence in his highly skilled first year player. “He [Vesey] had some real good looks”, the head coach said, “unfortunately he wasn’t able to finish”.
The Rangers can feel good about getting Vesey to wear their sweater. The best is yet to come.