Rangers’ Homework: NHL Opening Night Takeaways

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 10: Connor Bedard #98 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates during the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on October 10, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 10: Connor Bedard #98 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates during the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on October 10, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Dive into the thrill of NHL opening night and see what the Rangers can learn as they await their turn.

The NHL’s opening night was a blast, with teams hitting the ice and banners flying high. The Rangers had the night off – yet they weren’t napping, though! They were watching closely, picking up tips and tricks from their fellow players. Stick around as we dive into opening night’s highlights and see what the Blueshirts could learn from the triple header.

Lightning Strikes Bright:

Nick Paul and Nikita Kucherov were the stars of the show, each scoring twice. Sandwiched between them was a Brendan Hagel penalty shot tally. Paul even notched a power-play goal, putting the Lightning ahead 4-3 in the third period.

Goaltender Jonas Johansson, who signed a two-year, $1.55 million deal with Tampa Bay, was in the net because Andrei Vasilevskiy is recovering from back surgery and will miss the season’s first two months. He stopped 28 of 31 shots with a +1.21 goals saved above expected.

O’Reilly, who signed a four-year, $18 million contract with the Predators, had a goal and an assist in his debut.

However, penalties hurt Nashville, and the Lightning capitalized, going 2-for-5 on the power play.

It’s a reminder that special teams can make all the difference in a game. And with Kucherov finding the empty net at the end, the Lightning secured the 5-3 win.

The Lightning and Predators gave us a glimpse of what’s essential. First, special teams can be a game-changer. We saw Tampa Bay capitalize on their power plays, so the Rangers should be ready to make the most of those opportunities.

Also, a new addition to the team, like O’Reilly for the Predators, can make an impact. Chemistry is crucial as the season progresses.

Lastly, never underestimate the emotional boost a home opener can provide. The Blueshirts must feed off that energy when they take the Madison Square Garden ice on October 16th against the Arizona Coyotes.

Bedard Shines in Debut as Blackhawks Outduel Crosby’s Penguins:

It was the battle we’d all been waiting for – Connor Bedard vs. Sidney Crosby. Bedard might not have aced it in the faceoff circle (2/11), but he’s only 18, which is how long Crosby had been in the league as he enters his 19th season. As for the rest of the game, the young star rose to the occasion of his highly anticipated debut.

Crosby did get the upper hand on that opening draw – but let’s not dwell on it too much. Everywhere else, Bedard showed us what he’s made of. The generational talent led the charge as the Blackhawks rallied for a thrilling 4-2 win over Crosby’s Penguins.

Thanks to that victory, Bedard left his debut with a sweet taste. Cole Guttman, Jason Dickinson, and Nick Foligno sealed the deal in the last 10 minutes of the game.

They were backstopped by Petr Mrazek, who stood tall in the net, saving 38 of 40 shots. The goaltender was virtually impenetrable; at the same rink, he helped Chicago defeat Pittsburgh 5-2 five months ago. The victory ended the Penguins’ season and indirectly helped his franchise land Bedard.

Bedard, the number one overall pick, was the one everyone had their eyes on. This game registered 1.43 million viewers on ESPN, an NHL Opening night record and the most for an indoor hockey game ever. He didn’t let the spotlight or pressure get to him, emerging as the Hawks’ most dangerous offensive weapon.

Bedard was everywhere – 21:29 minutes of ice time, 11 shot attempts, five shots on goal, a game-high four scoring chances, and a dazzling 63.3% expected-goals ratio during five-on-five play. He led all skaters in zone entries with 9 and offensive zone puck possession at 67 seconds.

He earned his first career point with a slick assist, setting up a fantastic two-on-one play for the Hawks.

Bedard might’ve downplayed it, saying, “I was the least important guy on the goal,” but it’s a big deal.

Now, what can our beloved Blueshirts learn from this game?

First and foremost, it’s a clear reminder that the NHL is a dynamic league where young talents can shine.

In Bedard, we witnessed a rising star who wasn’t intimidated by the big stage. It should inspire the Rangers’ youngsters like Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere to maintain self-belief. Hockey is a marathon, not a sprint. They’ve got the talent; they need to trust it.

Also, the importance of teamwork. Chicago’s late-game comeback was about players stepping up when it mattered most. New York should note how collective effort can turn the tides in a game.

Vegas, Golden on Banner Knight:

They raised the Stanley Cup banner in true Las Vegas style in Vegas. Imagine pulling a slot machine lever, and the Cup pops out! Captain Mark Stone did just that, and the crowd went wild.

On the ice, the Golden Knights showed they’re still a force, beating the Seattle Kraken 4-1. Jonathan Marchessault picked up right where he left off last Spring. Chandler Stephenson, Ivan Barbashev, and Jack Eichel also joined the party.

Seattle’s lone goal came from Jared McCann. Adin Hill was stellar during a penalty kill, and the Kraken had their chances. It’s a tough night when the puck doesn’t go your way.
Hill made 32 saves on 33 shots with a +2.42 goals saved above expected.  On a personal level, he netted my fantasy hockey team (18-team league) 18 points.

The Kraken’s penalty kill was strong, holding off Vegas for 8 minutes. On the flip side, their power play couldn’t find the net in 11 minutes. This included a five-minute man advantage when ex-Blueshirt Brett Howden landed a hit to the head of Branden Tanev. Howden was suspended for two games on Wednesday.

A couple of takeaways from this game might interest us as we look ahead to the Rangers’ season.

Jonathan Marchessault remains a reliable scorer on the player side, especially in season openers. The Rangers will need someone to step up and make an impact early in the season, just like the reigning Conn Smythe winner did for Vegas.

Another lesson for the Rangers comes from the special teams. While the Kraken’s penalty kill held firm for 8 minutes, their power play couldn’t find the net in 11 minutes. Special teams can make or break a game, and it’s an area the Rangers will want to excel.

So, as we watch the rest of the NHL’s opening games, let’s keep these takeaways in mind and look forward to an exciting Rangers season!