The Gerard Gallant era on Broadway hasn’t necessarily started the way many Rangers fans would have liked or hoped. However there have been a few positives thus far throughout the first 7 periods of Rangers hockey. While it can be fun to jump to ridiculous conclusions from two early losses, many fans need to stop and take a deep breath and relax and look at the brighter side so far.
For the last three years while David Quinn was head coach, the Rangers had issues playing at even strength and had issues creating scoring opportunities. So far under Gallant there has been a paradigm shift because the Blueshirts at five on five have really controlled the pace of play and that was never more evident than their game against Dallas on Thursday night.
What made this even more impressive was that the Rangers were playing the back end of a back to back and they looked like the fresher team after the first period. While the powerplay hasn’t been anything to write home about so far, the fact that the club is dictating play and creating chances at even strength is a huge plus because that’s how you win in the postseason, which is a goal this club has their eyes set on.
If they can keep up the kind of pressure that they’re creating then the goals will start to come because as we all know this club has so much offensive talent.
There has been a bunch of expectations placed on the shoulders of Kaapo Kakko for this year and so far you can see that he’s enjoying the added responsibility and pressure placed on him by his coaches. Kakko has looked really good riding shotgun to Artemi Panarin on the Rangers second line as he’s been looking hungry to break the goal seal on this young season.
One of the most encouraging signs from Kakko has been that he’s looking to hold onto the puck and create a play unlike in years past where he was tentative with what he wanted to do. Now when he’s getting the chance to shoot the puck he’s letting it rip and has been robbed a couple times. However the fact that he’s not getting discouraged and is still continue to fire on net is a huge positive because the goals for him will start to come because he’s far too talented to continue to be held off the board.
Igor Shesterkin looks like he is poised for a huge season and is ready to grab reigns left behind by Henrik Lundqvist. In the first period against Dallas, Shesterkin kept the team in it early while they were looking for their legs and because of his efforts it helped the Rangers tie the game in the second. While he did get beat on a shot in OT that you expect him to stop most nights, he played extremely well. If the Rangers capitalize on the chances they created you’d be looking at a 1-1-0 team instead of an 0-1-1 club.
Biggest positive is that new bench boss Gerard Gallant seems to have a good pulse of his new club early on which is something that you don’t generally see. In the game against Dallas, he juggled the lines early in the 2nd moving Goodrow up with Zibanejad and Kreider which helped jumpstart the club before their first goal.
In years past when we saw a coach juggle the lines they would most likely stay that way the rest of the night. Gallant, however, decided to put Lafreniere back up on the top line after the Rangers seized momentum and Lafreniere’s play seemed to pick up the rest of the night. It was a subtle, albeit, nice reality check to see from a coach. Send the message that if you want to stay in your spot then you have to bring it every shift out there and if you’re not he won’t be afraid to put someone there that will. However, he’s smart enough to let a player show if the message has clicked and put you back in your spot, which is a breathe of fresh air at MSG from prior bench bosses.
While this hasn’t been the star that everyone, including myself, had hoped for, there are a lot of things for Rangers fans to still look forward to. If this club continues to buy into their coach’s philosophy and systems then the goals and wins will come in bunches.