The Rangers were defeated by the Nashville Predators last night by a score of 3-2. Their Madison Square Garden 2018-19 season opener gave hints of future ups and downs, but mostly it was a confirmation that, despite the preseason, Henrik Lundqvist still is an elite goaltender.
And he is definitely a big part of the good that can be taken away from last night. Lundqvist made some absolutely stupendous saves, and had to because New York’s defense last night was terrible. For the first half of the game, Henrik had absolutely no help in front. Defensemen were out of position or just plain lost their man. Opposition men were alone in front, or they just were beaten down the ice. It was ugly. But, as his head coach, David Quinn acknowledged after the game, “[Lundqvist] certainly gave us a chance tonight. He had about ten bell ringers . . .most of them on odd-man rushes.” It was not enough to get the job done, but it was an incredible performance in net.
The other good that can be taken away from last night was that there were forwards that give hope for the future. The first is Filip Chytil, who surprisingly was slotted as a third line center last night, after playing on the wing in the last few preseason games. Chytil made a beautiful pass to Jesper Fast on the Rangers first goal that showed amazing hands and instinct. But he should not be taking face offs right now. Last night, he was two for eight and looked bad on almost all of them. Maybe it is time to move him over to the wing for the regular season.
Brett Howden though was tremendous on face offs—he also took eight faceoffs, but he won six. He only had a little more than ten minutes of ice time (it was his first NHL game), but he showed quite a bit of potential.
And then there is Vinni Lettieri. It does not show it on the scoresheet, but he was all over the ice last night. In fact, he was the only Rangers who played the type of game that Head Coach Quinn said he wanted to play—gritty and in your face. On the fourth line with Howden and Vlad Namestnikov, it was a kind of up and down night, but the line has potential to generate energy and scoring—almost the old type of fourth line, sans the bully.
The Rangers need more Lettieris at this point, and they need to play their own game. Last night, they were playing run and gun, risky hockey. But they cannot play that way and win. More discipline and more grit is needed. Next up is Buffalo tomorrow night. It too is a team in transition. Hopefully, the Rangers will have learned their lessons from last night and play a more structured game. Otherwise, this could be a long month.
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