Peter Laviolettes’ Tactical Brilliance Shines Through:
The Rangers held it down defensively, locking down the neutral zone and keeping a tight grip on Buffalo’s time with the puck. The Sabres were left scratching their heads after the game. They couldn’t get anything against the Rangers’ 1-3-1 neutral zone trap.
They didn’t even manage a shot on goal in the second period until there were just 6:10 remaining. It was a tough nut to crack for Buffalo’s offense.
“We obviously have struggled against the 1-3-1 in the past, and we got to figure out how to play a simpler game when we play it because we just overcomplicated it tonight,” Sabres captain Kyle Okposo said.
The Rangers also dominated Buffalo at the faceoff dot, winning 63.7% (38/60) of the draws. Vincent Trocheck led the team with 12 wins, while Nick Bonino, who also had four blocks, won nine.
However, according to Sabres coach Dan Granato, their main struggle was getting the puck to the net. They only managed to score when winger JJ Peterka found the back of the net at 18:30 into the second period.
It happened swiftly after Trouba blocked Owen Power’s shot. It was a quick response. Speaking of Power, this was the defenseman’s first game after signing a 7-year, $58.45 million ($8.35 million AAV) extension on Wednesday.
“It was a shot, it was blocked, but it pulled them out of structure,” Granato said. “… We did not have the ability or execute tactically the right ways to pull teams out of structure and get a random and speed game going, and that has to do with an unwillingness to shoot a shot initially.
“So, again, if you look at the goal, it was a shot. And any chances we had, there was a shot prior and it creates a random situation we can jump on.”
Speaking of shots, Buffalo had 25 of them, including 13 in the third period. Yet they couldn’t solve Igor Shesterkin, who made 24 saves with a +1.23 goals saved above expected and collected the 100th win of his career.
Laviolette’s hard work during training camp was evident on the ice. He commented, “There’s a lot that went into training camp. They worked really hard, and it’s nice to – we called it before the game – take it for a test drive.”
Except this wasn’t a test drive; it was real. These Blueshirts were outmuscled and outplayed by the Sabres in their meetings last season. Here, they were stronger, faster, and wiser. They bested Levi, who made 26 saves on 30 shots with a -0.86 goals saved above expected.
New York’s fifth goal came on an empty net shot from Trouba. The captain, who had a game-high eight blocks on the evening, scored as a result of hard work by his teammates.
After Zibanejad lost the defensive zone draw, Kreider came to his aid and forced a Buffalo turnover right to Trouba, who sent it on a straight line toward the yawning cage at the other end of the ice.
With a 5-1 victory, the Rangers got the season off to a roaring start, and now they’re headed to Columbus on Saturday night at 7PMET for their next challenge against the Blue Jackets. It was a fantastic performance with a lot to look forward to. Let’s keep that fire burning!