Thursday night, the Rangers defeated the Arizona Coyotes by the score of 5-2. The Yotes are arguably the worst team in the NHL to begin the 2017-18 season, so a New York win was expected. The question really was, could the Rangers jump out to lead early in the game, and could they play hard for 60 minutes. The answer to both questions turned out to be yes and yes, and the game became the most impressive the Blueshirts have played thus far this season.
The Rangers scored their first goal at 8:01 of the first period on a beautiful play from Mats Zuccarello to Chris Kreider. The Rangers added another goal before the end of the period, and before former New York prospect and current Arizona winger Anthony Duclair put a puck past Rangers’ netminder Ondrej Pavelec at 5:13 of the second. At that point, the score was 2-1 and the game could have gone either way.
It took only 46 seconds for the Rangers to prove that they were not going to give this one away. Michael Grabner beat the Coyote’s goaltender Adin Hill, and restored the two goal lead. Arizona was not really a serious threat after Grabner’s goal, and the Blueshirts did not let up their pressure during the entire 60 minutes of the contest.
It would be easy to say that the Rangers were expected to win and did. So what—the win was against one of the worst teams in the league? And that a win tomorrow night, when New York travels to face hapless Montreal, would not mean much either. But that would not be the case. In addition to giving the team confidence as a whole, there is no measure for players individually and with linemates finding chemistry together and feeling like the net is as big as a house.
What will be a bigger test will come next week, when the Blueshirts face Vegas at home on Tuesday and then head to Florida to play the division-leading Tampa Bay and finally Florida next Saturday night.
There was much to like last night as the team won 60% of the face offs (Kevin Hayes won 13 out of 19, and JT Miller eight out of nine) and had 19 takeaways. Boo Nieves, called up from Hartford on Tuesday, had three assists centering the fourth line, and seeming gave energy to linemate Pavel Buchnevich, who until last night had not unleashed his amazing offensive potential.
But, frankly, the way the team played last night was not enough to win against the best teams in the league. There was little forechecking or backchecking; the team had 21 giveaways through the 60 minutes; and relies too much on run and gun to win against teams who clog up the middle.
The team is definitely going in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.