New York Rangers: First thoughts after two games

The New York Rangers didn’t exactly get off to the start they wanted as the 2021-22 NHL season kicked off this week.  But what can fans take away from the first two games as they get set to hit the road for the next four?

The Opener

Clearly what the Rangers were expecting and what Capitals coach Peter Laviolette was going to let happen were two different things.  The Rangers played the game like they were in anticipation of a bomb going off.  The whole team seemed to be out of focus as they waited for the much hyped encounter between Ryan Reaves and clown college graduate Tom Wilson.

Laviolette, on the other hand, would not let the fuse be lit.  He kept Wilson off the ice and away from Reaves for the entire game.  The grand total where the two players were on the ice together had to be less than 15 seconds.

So while it seemed the Rangers were waiting for that moment, the Caps went about their business and just played hockey.  It was a sound coaching decision by Laviolette.  While his team knew the heavyweight bout was never going to happen, by the time the Rangers figured it out, the game was out of reach.

Other Ranger players did do their best to get the Capitals to engage in some rough stuff. Sammy Blais was just a human wrecking ball out there.  He hit everything that moved.  But ultimately his enthusiasm for the game got the best of him and he spent too much time in the penalty box.  Against the Capitals, that is a recipe for disaster.  The score was a clear reflection.

Yet, let’s look at this game from a different perspective, one that should reflect positively on the Ranger team and give fans something good to take away from that first game.

Simple question, did you see ANY Washington Capital player take cheap shots at a Ranger player?  The quick answer is no, and that is something positive to take away from the game despite the lopsided loss.

Back to Sammy Blais for a second. The dude ran around the ice crushing any Capital player who touched the puck.  He leveled more than one defenseman on the forecheck and there was no response.  There was no Tom Wilson looking for payback. Ovechkin didn’t throw one big check. No Capital player tried to even the score.  The game ended with the Rangers throwing 27 hits to the Caps 12.

It’s a small victory to take away, but one that should embolden the Rangers going forward.  They clearly will not be messed with and that is something we have not seen for a very long time.

To The Garden

Do the Rangers EVER play a good game on a night when they hold a pre-game ceremony?  It just seems like year after year, they falter out of the gate whenever such occasions have taken place.  I would really like Steve Paulus to look up what the Ranger record is on Steve McDonald night. I bet it is really terrible.

Anyway, you gotta do what you gotta do, and I guess the fact that the organization rolled the Rod Gilbert tribute into Opening Night eliminates the need for another pre-game ceremony, which is a really a good thing.  Let’s see how January 28th plays out.

Once the Rangers shook off the home opener haze, they really played a fantastic game.  What fans saw over the last 30 minutes was more than encouraging and should have every fan looking forward to an entertaining season.  If it wasn’t for a handful of just incredible saves by the Stars goalie combo……well you know how it goes.

Take the point after going down 2-0, celebrate  the comeback effort and understand that anything can happen in the 3v3 overtime.

One thing that stood out about the game was the crowd at the Garden.  This wasn’t the typical corporate crowd.  The fans were into it from the first faceoff.  That is a really good sign.  Maybe Ranger fans took it to heart when they were forced to watch a raucous crowd root on the hated Islanders at the Coliseum during the playoffs. Or maybe they just like the new physicality that the team is putting on the ice.  Nothing wakes up a crowd like a big hit.

Player Thoughts

How can you not love the Ryan Reaves deal already?  He is instantly noticeable when he takes a shift.  Plus, he has had a few opportunities to put the puck in the net, but he just couldn’t seem to find that part of his game.  Who cares, he will get a few one way or the other.  In the meantime, he is pure entertainment and the Reaves effect is very real.

Kaapo Kakko should have two goals already.  He was absolutely robbed in the opening game just after the Capitals took a 1-0 lead.  If you missed it, blame TNT because they never showed a replay of the stellar save made by Vanecek, as they were too busy showing how important Alex Ovechkin was to T.J. Oshie’s goal.  Over and over again.  More on this later.

Kakko also clanked a one-timer off the post in the Dallas game. He looks very good and once the flood gates open, he will be something to watch.

Just Adam Fox!  Wow!

Nils Lundkvist looks so damn young.  Hope his NHL debut jitters were just that.

Just a little bit more from Filip Chytil please…..and Alexis Lafrenière.

Jacob Trouba looks like a different player.  He’s been very physical and aggressive with the puck.

Don’t see much difference in the power play from last year.  The new coaching staff didn’t feel the need to make ANY tweaks at all?

Chris Kreider may be on a mission.  If he stays relevant the whole season, he could have a career year.  If he disappears for weeks at a time, well then, nothing has changed, has it?

Sammy Blais!  Awesome, if not slightly undisciplined. What was that guys name the Rangers traded him for?

Random Thoughts

I really don’t watch pre-game shows.  I find them tedious and annoying. But wanted to check out the first night of NHL coverage on TNT.  It was exactly what I expected.

While I did find the five person panel interesting on an individual basis, I would prefer no more than three at a time.  Paul Bissonnette was very good. His story about being “thrown through the crust of the earth” by Ryan Reaves was fantastic.  Rick Tocchet absolutely nailed the coaching decision by Laviolette to keep Wilson off the ice against Reaves.  More insights like that would be worthwhile.

Then Charles Barkley came on and the whole thing just went south.

During the game, the decision to bring Wayne Gretzky on as the Capitals were headed to a power play was a complete disaster.  Gretzky was just repeating the same stuff about Ovechkin he said during the pre-game show.  The whole thing blew up in their faces, as two goals went uncalled by Kenny Albert, one of which was a career first goal.

Let’s hope the producer kept his job, but more importantly, that TNT learned a lesson.  Just show the game. You have PLENTY of time before the game, between periods, and post-game to say anything else that may need to be said.

Enjoy the road trip!