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Even though it’s been just two games it is never too early look and see if we have learned anything from watching the Rangers. After what was an abysmal opening night performance where it almost seemed as though Murphy’s Law was in effect against the Rangers in their 4-0 shutout loss, they reversed their fortune Saturday night.
In the Blueshirts first game since their embarrassing showing in Toronto during the return to play in August they somehow looked even worse against the hated Isles. Tony DeAngelo looked like he was still missing his ankles from when Sebastian Aho utterly undressed him in August and then somehow he looked even worse from Matt Barzal undressing him Thursday night. Igor Shesterkin had his first moment in the NHL where he looked human after taking the league by storm last season. K’Andre Miller looked nervous in his first night as you would expect for any 20 year old rookie. Bottom line is that the Rangers looked like the youngest team in the league Thursday night with a lot of the mistakes they were making.
Saturday night it was a totally different story. From David Quinn shuffling his forward lines including dropping Chytil and Kakko to the fourth line and removing the struggling Tony DeAngelo. DeAngelo’s seat in the press-box was well worth it after his abysmal defensive effort and inexcusable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Thursday. Kakko’s loss of powerplay time and demotion was more unwarranted in my opinion but the second year pro certainly responded in a big way Saturday notching his first goal of the season on a beautiful passing sequence.
Everything about the Rangers game was different in game 2 of 56. From their goaltending, to their defensive effort, the forecheck and special teams play. The team seemed to respond to their coaches fiery demeanor and anger from Thursday night. The effort was most certainly there which is something you definitely were not able to say on opening night. Brendan Smith stepped in to the lineup and provided a sense of stability in his pairing with Miller on a solid defensive night overall.
The biggest positives from the Blueshirts 5-0 domination of the Islanders is how well the team looked defensively. Most notably Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, Adam Fox, and K’Andre Miller. Jack Johnson also looked extremely solid and the best thing I can say about him was that I did not hear his name. For a player like Johnson the less I hear his name the better his night is going. K’Andre Miller showed fans exactly what coaches were raving about in training camp, he showed some flashes in the offensive zone while remaining extremely reliable and responsible defensively. He showed his long defensive reach and his fantastic skating ability especially in a sequence defending Barzal in the third period. Instead of giving up the blueline to Barzal who entered the zone with speed, Miller stepped up and challenged him and forced him wide and behind the net and not allowing a shot on goal. That kind of play is something that really inspires hope in the 20 year old’s game and the promise of good things to come. The Mantis has come ready to play with the big boys.
Alexis Lafreniere also popped on the screen tonight while not registering any points, he was responsible for Pavel Buchnevich’s second goal. Locked in a board battle with Josh Bailey he helped push the puck towards the neutral zone which helped spring Buchnevich on the rush where he finished it with an absolute snipe on Ilya Sorkin. That’s the kind of great fight and hockey IQ that Ranger fans can expect from the number one overall pick.
All in all for as bad as Thursday was the Rangers came back and answered with their own dominating win against their crosstown rivals. During this covid schedule, this is the kind of thing I would expect from this young Rangers team. There are going to be nights where they look like they are going to Cup contenders and then there will be night where they look like they are still knee deep in the rebuild.