Vigneault desperate for answers mixes lines again

At the morning practice, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault once again mixed his lines as if they were out of a hat. Only six games in, his team has struggled to find chemistry scoring just 13 goals while losing five of its first six.

With key players unable to get going, a desperate man is seeking answers. How to explain his many lineups already and changes? Manic. He’s clearly feeling the pressure while looking for the right combination that can put together a 60-minute effort. It’s a must with the two-time defending champion Penguins visiting MSG for tomorrow’s match at 7 PM.

To say they need a win is a understatement. From the coaches to the players, two points is badly needed for their psyche which can’t be too good. Inconsistency has been the theme so far. Until that changes, they’ll be hard pressed to go on a hot streak.

We’ve already seen Kevin Shattenkirk on all three pairs while still getting lots of power play time on the top unit. If only it were as simple as winning games on special teams. After a good start, the power play has cooled off going 1 for its last 14.

Over the past four seasons, Vigneault put a emphasis on puck possession and winning the battle five on five. Preaching quick transition and solid forechecking, the veteran bench boss had plenty of success guiding the franchise to four consecutive postseasons including a Stanley Cup appearance and within a period of another. They’ve since lost in the first round and in the second round.

There’s no doubting Vigneault’s resume. He’s been a good coach for over a decade also having similar success with Vancouver where they fell a game short of winning the franchise’s first Cup. Ultimately, a talented team featuring the Sedins, Ryan Kesler, Roberto Luongo, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo, Mikael Samuelsson, Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond fell shy of their goal. They won a President’s Trophy the following year and were upset by eventual champ Los Angeles in the first round. Another first round ouster to San Jose ended his run with the Canucks.

Are the Rangers heading down the same path? Since that gut wrenching Stanley Cup loss to the Kings, they’ve had some tough disappointments including losing a home Game 7 for the first time in MSG history to the Lightning. Followed by early exits, it resulted in changes with former playoff hero Derick Brassard traded to Ottawa and Derek Stepan sent to Arizona.

That’s created a hole at center with Mika Zibanejad fulfilling the number one center slot so far leading the team with five goals. However, Kevin Hayes has been up and down while Vigneault has moved J.T. Miller and David Desharnais around. He has yet to figure out if Miller would be better suited as a center. Considering the team’s lack of depth, there isn’t much choice. Desharnais should center the fourth line. Instead, he was centering the second line in the latest bizarre twist.

Mika Zibanejad gets new linemates in Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello. I have no problem with that. Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich was getting stale. Neither Kreider or Buchnevich have a goal. I just have no idea why Buchnevich is down to the fourth line with Paul Carey and Michael Grabner. Holy mackerel.

The third line of Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey and Jesper Fast has potential. Vesey worked well with Hayes in preseason and is overdue. Fast is that strong hard working two-way presence. The idea that Desharnais is centering Kreider and Miller is absurd. Desharnais isn’t a top six forward. This is what Vigneault is going with against the Pens.

Then there’s the confusing defense pairings. Shattenkirk is on the third pair with Marc Staal. Why? He’s getting the Keith Yandle treatment. So much for giving ShattDeuces another look with Ryan McDonagh. All it took was four periods. McDonagh is now with Tony DeAngelo. A liability in his end. Brady Skjei remains with familiar partner Brendan Smith. The only tandem that makes sense.

So, this is how nuts Vigneault is. Only entering Game 7 of 82 and he’s pulling names from a hat. He already has used seven D and 11 forwards twice. It’s mystifying.

The unpredictable nature of his lines have Rangers Twitter in a conundrum. Nobody understands what’s going on. If things don’t change starting tomorrow with the Islanders Thursday and Predators Saturday at MSG, it might not matter anymore for Vigneault. Some fans don’t care.

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Lack of discipline and confusing lineup costly in another loss that sends fans to the exits

328fc-alainvigneault

When you’re a good team, you find ways to win. When you’re bad, you find ways to lose. For the Rangers, they did it to themselves again in last night’s 3-2 loss to the Devils at a restless MSG.

They’re now 1-5-0 and don’t resemble anything close to a team that’s made the playoffs seven years in a row and 11 of the last 12. What’s more? In Year 5 under bench boss Alain Vigneault, they look lost.

Perhaps all the different lineups, lines and D pairings have confused the players. After losing in Columbus Friday, Vigneault decided to dress seven D and 11 forwards. Even with Jesper Fast returning, he thought the best chance was to not roll four lines and work in seven defensemen. A puzzling rotation that saw Marc Staal limited to 9:24 (17 shifts) and Nick Holden to 9:41 (15 shifts). The same Holden who played top pair with Ryan McDonagh the other night. The same Staal who’s been their most consistent blueliner thus far.

Welcome to the wild and wacky world of the 2017-18 Rangers. Where adding veteran coach Lindy Ruff to manage the D means nothing. If you’re confused, why don’t we ask Chris Kreider if he knows the season started yet? He’s now without a goal in six. Sometimes, he can dominate shifts and other instances, you don’t realize he’s out there.

Even new alternate captain Mats Zuccarello has been underwhelming. Sure. We cheer because the pint sized Norwegian makes it known to opponents he won’t back down by going into the corners and challenging bigger guys. Tom Petty would be proud. But outside of the career best four points he posted against Toronto, he only has one other point. That can’t be for one of the veteran leaders. They need Zucc to be better.

This is the same team that can sit out Tony “Don’t Call Me Anthony” DeAngelo three straight games after a bad shift that led to a Maple Leafs goal in a 8-5 loss. Then decide to stick the unproven defenseman with McDonagh on the top pair. Then watch helplessly as he is culpable on two Devils goals and takes a iffy cross checking penalty that leads to Drew Stafford’s power play game-winner.

We always criticize Vigneault for how little patience he has for younger players. But he sure showed plenty with DeAngelo Saturday playing him 16:13 despite undisciplined play. On the opposite side, you had John Hynes make an example out of his second line by benching Pavel Zacha, Marcus Johansson and Jimmy “Not Kevin” Hayes the final 36 minutes due to their poor defensive work.

Accountability can work. The Rangers totally outplayed the Devils in a lopsided first period by outshooting them 14-3. The only reason the game was scoreless was due to New Jersey backup Keith Kinkaid. He had a splendid game making 29 saves including 13 more big ones in the third with his tired team clinging on.

It’s not the first time the punchless Blueshirts have made a backup look Vezina caliber. Carter Hutton anyone? Right now, this roster would have trouble scoring on pee wee goalies. They have totaled 13 goals in the first six or four more than NHL leader Alex Ovechkin. They aren’t the only team struggling to score goals. Montreal is even worse.

In a league where scoring is up due to the confusing new rules which include love taps for penalties, the Rangers’ lack of creativity is alarming. While it’s easy to point out their defensive deficiencies which turned over pucks to the tune of 16 giveaways, the offense continues to puzzle.

Jimmy Vesey is without a point. Either he plays few minutes like yesterday getting just over eight in a three line rotation or he winds up with more. Is this how to handle one of the few gritty young forwards who proved he could handle the postseason in his rookie year? I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve blame. But they have to do better for Vesey, who is good in front and willing to win battles.

The Rangers have become all finesse. That’s the way they play. An extension of a coach who preaches quick transition emphasizing team speed and extra passes even when there’s a clear shooting lane. That style has worn thin on frustrated fans who headed for the exits at the five minute stoppage of the final period.

Some even departed with half a period left. They knew the team wasn’t coming back from a 3-1 deficit in which Will Butcher made the Rangers’ three penalty killers look silly to lead Stafford in on Ondrej Pavelec for a backhand deke PPG a minute in.

Indeed, it felt like old times at the Garden. The Dark Ages were back with disenchanted fans voicing their displeasure. Even McDonagh felt the wrath after he kneeled instead of taking Brian Gibbons off the puck before he set up Adam Henrique for the game turning goal that tied it up. Nash had scored on a nice feed from David Desharnais. Then the Rangers stopped skating. They only had three shots for the longest time as the Devils and their supporters of which there were many took over.

This was like seeing a bad rerun. A mini section of Devils fans were louder than the lifeless Rangers crowd who don’t like how their team plays. Wildly inconsistent. The same as the performance at Columbus where they played two periods and then no showed the third to lose.

What will change? Vigneault said the same things in a redundant postgame about “looks” and not capitalizing and “bad turnovers” along with having to get back to work Monday for the Pens on Tuesday. Yes. They have a scheduled off day today. Even if they practiced, I’m not sure it would help. They don’t know who they are.

We are only six games in and the Rangers currently sit dead last in the Metro Division with two points. They continue to dig themselves an early hole which could be difficult to climb out of. These games mean the same as the ones in March and April.

They’ve never looked this bad under Vigneault, who signed an extension in January so he wouldn’t be a lame duck coach entering a final year. How does it look now? Once, John Tortorella lost the team one year following a Conference Final that led to a extension. A second round elimination to Boston was enough for him to be fired. Vigneault might be safe for now but for how long?

This isn’t just about him. It’s about the players Jeff Gorton chose including the Derek Stepan deal which so far has netted negative returns. He isn’t doing much better with the dreadful Coyotes. The gaping hole at center isn’t leaving. Last night, J.T. Miller played center winning 10 of 12 draws and assisting on a Kevin Shattenkirk goal with 57 seconds left. It was too late.

That is how they play. Tease you to death. They can control the play for stretches like they did against the Devils but make enough costly mistakes to lose. Shots (31-19) and shot attempts (66-47) along with Corsica don’t matter with a inconsistent team.

They’re a mess. At least first round pick Filip Chytil recorded a goal and two assists in a Hartford win. He barely got a chance. Wouldn’t want to see what he can do. That’s the Rangers in a nutshell.

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Hynes, Kinkaid lead Devils to comeback win at MSG

Many times in hockey all of us (fans) will complain about coaching decisions and perhaps at times give coaches too much credit/blame on such things as – who plays, who sits, who’s on what line, does the system fit the players, are the players giving effort? – but in the end it’s near impossible to discern the impact most of a coach’s individual moves have on the team.  Ultimately all NHL coaches are judged on overall results but by the same token it’s very, very rare where you can clearly pinpoint one move in one game and say that coach won – or lost – his team the game.

Yesterday was one of those rarities – John Hynes clearly won last night’s game for the Devils.

How?  By forcing the team to show accountability after a horrible first period at Madison Square Garden, where goaltender Keith Kinkaid was the only reason the Devils were still even in a game (let alone tied) they were outshot 14-2 in the first period and were putting out another dud effort after an underwhelming 5-2 home loss to the Caps last night I mercifully missed.  Hynes sat three of the main culprits – forwards Marcus Johansson, Jimmy Hayes and Pavel Zacha – for two shifts to begin the second period, then when they returned to the ice almost immediately the Rangers had a quality scoring chance within about 10-15 seconds.  After that, none were to be seen the rest of the game anywhere but the bench.  For almost forty minutes the Devils played with just nine forwards, something almost unheard of at the NHL level.  This wasn’t even out of the Jacques Lemaire/Pat Burns playbook, this was more like Gene Hackman in Hoosiers playing with four instead of five to make a point.

And I loved every minute of it.  Would have loved it even if the team did not respond the way they eventually did because it’s more proof there’s going to be accountability this year, which was too often lacking last season and it showed in the team’s heartless play for much of 2016-17.  However the effect was undeniable – the team did start to pick up its play almost immediately after the benchings.  Finally behind 1-0 early in the second period, the Devils’ effort level turned around 180 degrees and their three lines attacked play the way they did early in the season.  Even Chico Resch on the radio had observed that through the first three games the players were playing like a team but in the four periods since (Friday night’s game and the first period last night) they were playing more individually.  That improved as well, as our nine-forward group played some of the best hockey of the season for about the next thirty minutes or so.

Each of the three lines eventually contributed on the scoresheet, with Adam Henrique tying the game midway through the second after the immortal Brian Gibbons continued his ‘where the (heck) did this come from?!’ offensive binge – first by making a good play to keep the puck in the zone, then finding an open Henrique through traffic.  Gibbons and fellow fourth-liner Blake Coleman weren’t even supposed to be in the lineup this season, but injuries to Travis Zajac and Brian Boyle have given both a chance and they’ve responded with surprisingly effective play.  Another bottom sixer promoted after the mass benchings last night was Miles Wood, and he scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period tipping in a shot from plodder defenseman Ben Lovejoy of all people.

Now up 2-1 you wondered whether Hynes would let the three forwards out of doghouse to start the third, but once it was obvious they were done for the night, I was just hoping we could put the game away before our nine forwards started to tire.  Drew Stafford gave the team much-needed breathing room early in the third period, dekeing out Ondrej Pavelec to score after a brilliant feed from Will Butcher and giving the Devils a 3-1 lead.  Another game, another power play point and two assists total for Butcher, who now has an incredible eight through five games as a rookie.  Ultimately the effect of playing nine forwards did start to show late as the Rangers continued to press but somehow the Devils kept them off the scoresheet until the final minute, avoiding disaster earlier when three or four of the penalty killers were stuck on the ice through most of a Ranger power play and for about thirty seconds after an icing, thanks to the NHL’s new mandate you’re not allowed to use a timeout after an icing.

In the end it proved to be the best of both worlds for the Devils last night – big comeback win against a rival, and a lesson learned in searing fashion.

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Inept offense deserves criticism for Rangers’ poor start

Chris Kreider celebrates with Nash

Where’s The Offense? It’s been missing so far for the Rangers, who face the Devils tonight needing a win to avoid a 1-5-0 start. 

This isn’t the start anyone envisioned. After falling in Columbus 3-1, the Rangers are 1-4-0 entering tonight’s home match against the Hudson rival Devils.

It’s not only the defense which has been inconsistent thus far despite going with eight D. It’s been the lack of offense that hasn’t come close to producing the amount of goals needed to win on a nightly basis. They’ve scored 11 goals in five games for an average of 2.20 goals-per-game, ranking 17th out of 31.

The only dreadful performance was the 8-5 humiliation at Toronto last Saturday on Hockey Night On Canada. A game that saw the very talented Leafs chase Henrik Lundqvist for five goals after one period. Every other game has been close. They couldn’t beat Semyon Varlamov in a disappointing 4-2 season opener at home which set the tone.

The lone win came against the even more inept Canadiens. A 2-0 shutout last Sunday.    Montreal had more shots and plenty of attempts compared to the Rangers. But it didn’t matter due to Lundqvist. A look at the two defeats by identical 3-1 margins to the Blues and Blue Jackets and it’s the same recipe. An offense that isn’t performing up to expectation.

St. Louis backup Carter Hutton again stonewalled them at every turn. Jaden Schwartz scored an empty netter to end the misery. Following a flat start that saw Columbus have a goal wiped out 27 seconds in due to goalie interference on Matt Calvert, they woke up and controlled a majority of the first period on Friday night.

Kevin Hayes became just the fourth Blueshirt forward to score a goal so far, joining Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello and J.T. Miller. And that’s where the problem lies. Somehow, Chris Kreider has no goals. He had a good game last night coming close but that doesn’t matter. At some point, he along with Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Jimmy Vesey have to finish.

Alain Vigneault has tried mixing his other three lines in a desperate attempt to get something going. They only got one past Sergei Bobrovsky, who proved why he’s the game’s best goalie. The one line that’s stayed intact is Zibanejad, Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. Buchnevich has shown improvement in his second year by coming out with more pucks and assisting on three goals. He does need to put away some of his chances. Mainly Zibanejad, whose four power play goals and five overall easily lead the Rangers.

After Zibanejad, no Ranger has more than one goal. In fact, only three skaters have over three points with Kevin Shattenkirk with four all on the power play. Zuccarello has five with a career best four coming in last week’s wild loss to the Leafs. A game they trailed 5-1 before rallying to tie it but ultimately falling.

A look at their plus/minuses is cringe worthy. Shattenkirk is a team worst minus-six while being bounced around from partner to partner after only four periods together with Ryan McDonagh. Zuccarello is minus-five and even Zibanejad is a minus-four with a bad decision to go for a block on a long Seth Jones shot resulting in it deflecting past a infuriated Lundqvist. The turning point of yesterday’s game.

They have yet to put together a full 60-minute effort. There have been way too many lazy shifts resulting in sloppy turnovers. Not just the defense. But the forwards, who are so rarely critiqued. Hayes blindly threw the puck right to a Blue Jacket which nearly led to the game’s first goal. But a successful challenge negated it due to Calvert making contact with Lundqvist on his deflection.

This has become the norm under Vigneault. Too many players taking shortcuts rather than putting in the work defensively. It’s a offensive system that encourages players to fly the zone and look for odd man breaks. How many times does Lundqvist have to point it out in a somber tone during the postgame?

At some point, it has to sink in. In a improved Metro Division, they’re digging themselves a early hole. Vigneault always emphasizes getting off to fast starts. With the exception of his first year on Broadway in ’13-14 where there was a learning curve for both coach and players, his teams have been successful early. Last year’s roster built enough cushion to make the playoffs safely. In Year Five, Vigneault’s Blueshirts  have never missed the postseason. With the coach getting extended so he wouldn’t be a lame duck, his team needs to pick it up.

Facing a young and more talented Devils team boasting early Calder leader Jesper Bratt, 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier and rookie blueliner Will Butcher, the Rangers face another challenge. If they’re not ready to play, it could be a long night in front of the Garden Faithful. There’s already growing frustration from a fan base confused by Vigneault’s lineups. But it can’t always be the coach.

The players are underperforming. It’s time for that to change. Kreider needs a hit streak. Maybe a goal will get him going. He’s been streaky throughout his career. A slow start last year didn’t prevent him from coming back to lead the Blueshirts with a career high 28 goals. More is expected from the 26-year old power forward. Thirty goals and 60 points should be attainable. He went 28-25-53 in 75 games in ’16-17.

Nash is without a point so far. That can’t continue for the likable 33-year old veteran who’s in a contract year. He battles hard and generates scoring chances. It’s about production.

Ditto for Miller, who hasn’t been consistent either. Despite a goal and two assists, he’s been guilty of some poor puck management. Most effective when he’s playing a straight line game, he must stay away from the passes in the middle of the ice that cause turnovers. Along with Hayes, he’s a key RFA next summer. Being moved around from center to wing doesn’t help. Something that’s irked him under Vigneault per a source last season. The coach must figure out what’s gonna be better for Miller and this club over the long haul.

David Desharnais hasn’t thus far made anyone forget Oscar Lindberg. Vigneault went from hardly using him to having him center the third line on Friday. Desharnais has some speed and skill. It’s about harnessing it. Either he plays in the top nine with a little power play usage or he’s their fourth line center.

Paul Carey has done what’s been asked. Provide energy and win board battles. He’s not going to wow anyone. It’s amazing that some of my peers decide to focus on him rather than the better players not pulling their weight. He or Adam Cracknell become an extra once Jesper Fast returns. They miss his effort and grit. Fast could debut by next week. He says he’s ready. We’ll see what the coaching staff decides.

Without Derek Stepan, it’s up to Hayes and Miller to play bigger roles. Only Zibanejad has delivered on his promise with his team-leading five goals and points. It would be nice if he picked up an assist. But that’s up to his teammates.

It’s never good when Marc Staal has one more point (2) than the captain Ryan McDonagh. He does need a consistent partner. I thought that problem was solved with the addition of Shattenkirk. But they started off poorly and Vigneault’s assistant Lindy Ruff broke it up. At some point, they’ll get another chance.

Staal has been better than expected after a tough preseason. He’s been jumping in offensively and hasn’t been a liability in his end. How long will it continue? They even had Staal on the left with McDonagh on the right for two games. They were surprisingly effective. But Vigneault feels it takes away from McDonagh’s game. Why did he have Nick Holden paired with him last night?

That’s the thing. Holden didn’t even start the first two games. Then he goes from third pair status to top pair. It’s clear that the coach is still sorting through the roster Jeff Gorton provided. Steven Kampfer got in for two due to Brendan Smith starting poorly. Smith returned last night and played with familiar partner Brady Skjei, who’s fighting it so far. Skjei must be better. Particularly defensively.

Vigneault isn’t giving up on young righty Tony DeAngelo. He could slide back in tonight. But needs more ice time. If he plays, he is part of the second power play unit.  One bad game in Toronto shouldn’t prevent the coach from playing him. DeAngelo was far from alone.

As for Lundqvist, he’s looked more like his old self. But if the team can’t score, how will they win games? Ondrej Pavelec is due to start. The Devils are going with Keith Kinkaid in place of starter Cory Schneider. Does the coach have enough trust in his backup to come out with a win?

That remains to be seen along with the disappointing offense. As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s getting late early.”

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Run and gun Devils make another statement in Toronto

I’m at a loss for words over the Devils’ 3-0 start, where they’ve scored a whopping sixteen goals in those three games and just outgunned one of the top offensive teams in the league at their building.  For a team that’s been in the bottom three-five in scoring the last several years, to say it’s been an eye-opening start to 2017-18 is an understatement.  My football Jets tied for first place on a three-game winning streak and my Devils the only unbeaten team in the Eastern Conference, is this 2009 or 2017?  It would be one thing if the Devils were winning games 2-1 and 3-2 leaning on Cory Schneider like they did two years ago when they stayed in the playoff race through February, but this team is winning the way GM Ray Shero envisioned when he took over.

It was a laughable mantra the past two seasons, especially last year.  An empty slogan meant to sell a bad team off the ice more than actually describe an attainable state of being on the ice.  Obviously it was going to take time to make the team over from the old, slow, hopeless outfit they were in 2015 when Shero took over.  Our hot 2/3 of a season in 2015-16 was more illusory than anything else, attained by good goaltending from Cory Schneider and a bunch of gritty role players playing above their heads.  When the bottom fell out at the end of that season and after a good first month last year, it seemed as if the turnaround was still a long way off, if it was possible at all.

Perhaps the turnaround was just around the corner though.

Certainly there was tangible change this offseason after a dissapointing year two of the Shero regime.  While getting the #1 overall pick was a matter of good fortune, Shero still had a hard decision in picking Nico Hischier over Nolan Patrick.  It’s obviously too early to suggest he and scouting director Paul Castron made the right choice but certainly it seems a guy like Hischier with his creativity and speed was just what the doctor ordered for this group of forwards.  There was no luck involved with Shero’s trade for Marcus Johansson however, as for a third straight offseason he managed to add a top six forward (Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri) at arguably below market value.  In one way or another, the Devils’ entire top six last night was acquired or drafted by Shero in the span of just two years, starting with drafting Pavel Zacha at #6 overall in 2015.  Our top six last night was unfathomable two years ago – Hischier, Zacha, Johansson, Hall, Palmieri…and Jesper Bratt, your current 2017 Calder trophy leader.

Who?!

Just nineteen years old and a sixth-round draft pick in 2016, Bratt was expected to be in the OHL this year and not even get the token nine-game callup.  However, the winger dazzled in development camp, during the prospects challenge and in training camp earning not only a shot with the NHL Devils but an opportunity to play in all situations.  Bratt’s defying all expectations, averaging just under 17 minutes a night and playing in all situations – on the power play, penalty kill, 5-on-5 – and excelling at all of them.  Through three games Bratt has three goals and three assists, spread out evenly with a goal and and assist on the PP, shorthanded and 5-on-5 and is one of the biggest reasons why the hopeless, plodding group of forwards last year looks like a dynamic force.

While the forwards have shown improvement with the flash and skill up front, there’s also been a surprising amount of grit and effectiveness from the back six and role players on the penalty kill.  Castoffs like Brian Gibbons and forgotten middling prospects like Blake Coleman have actually filled the void of having no Travis Zajac or Brian Boyle on the PK.  Killing off 15-18 penalties on paper is okay, nothing spectatular but the PK has also scored three shorthanded goals and did beastly work going 6-6 against Colorado and again last night, contending with eight penalties including two extended 3-on-5’s.  Up just 3-2 in the second period, the first of those 3-on-5’s was certainly a turning point – for the Devils.

Gibbons’ goal was apparently the first ever 3-on-5 scored by the Devils in the regular season.  I’ve always remembered the 3-on-5 shorthanded goal Scott Niedermayer scored against the Panthers in the first round of the 2000 playoffs but didn’t actually think that was the last time it happened in franchise history.

New Jersey eventually killed off that entire five-on-three to boot though they couldn’t kill off the second extended five-on-three late in the third period.  Fortunately Schneider had a terrific game, making 47 saves, and the Devils’ offense gave them enough of a cushion where they weren’t seriously challenged in the third period after another of the aformentioned grinder fourth-liners (Coleman) scored early in the third to make it a 5-2 lead.  For one night the three-goal lead was not the worst lead in hockey.

Another back six forward had a big impact last night too – Miles Wood, after being a healthy scratch for the opener came out inspired during these two road games and not only scored twice last night but nearly had the hat trick goal late in the third period.  Wonder what Lou Lamoriello must have been thinking seeing two of his former picks in Wood and Coleman burn the Leafs last night sitting in the home GM’s suite at the ACC or whatever their building’s called now watching a completely different team than the one he left two years ago.

I’ve probably been remiss not giving enough love to the D but let’s face it – 40+ shots allowed for the home opener and 50 allowed last night isn’t sustainable although taking fewer penalties would help too.  I will say this about the D…the surprising scratch of veteran Ben Lovejoy in two of the first three games shows the team’s not only serious about accountability after an offseason with multiple players being shown the door, but also serious about giving younger defensemen Mirco Mueller and Will Butcher a shot in the early going.  While I haven’t been that impressed with Mueller yet he’ll get a longer rope given the team gave up a second-round pick for him and he’s not waiver-exempt like Butcher.  Butcher on the other hand has dazzled offensively with five assists in the first three games and has provided the PP (and the blueline as a whole) a jolt it needed after a poor 2016-17.  Sophomore Steven Santini did well enough on the first pairing with captain Andy Greene last night.

Perhaps most of the changes on D have been more subtle to this point than the forwards but even there you can see the Shero blueprint of getting quicker and younger starting to bear a little fruit.  It also will help the D if Cory can maintain his 2013-16 level of play rather than the ‘WTF, dude?!’ version who hit the ice last year, not to mention backup Keith Kinkaid maintaining his level of play last year where he actually outplayed Cory for the most part.  Kinkaid will get his first action of the season this weekend, either against the Caps tomorrow or the Rangers Saturday.

My brain’s telling me to pump the brakes on the hype a little, but let’s face it – this season was going to be about whether you saw hope for the future.  Clearly through three games we’ve seen that in many different ways.  Whether the future is in fact actually now, that’s going to take longer to answer.  Of course the fact we’re even asking the latter is a sign of real progress.

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Game 4: Disturbing trends, questionable deployment in 3-1 loss to Blues, Chytil to Hartford

In falling to 1-3-0, the Rangers continue to play uneven. They lost 3-1 to the Blues at MSG last night. A winnable game with St. Louis playing a second straight day after a Columbus Day win in Brooklyn.

The Rangers didn’t take advantage. Instead, they were again stoned by Carter “E.F.” Hutton, who made 16 of his 32 saves in a lopsided third period that saw a tired Blues hang on. Hutton did this to them before the past couple of years. They’ve never beaten him. He’s a backup. It doesn’t matter.

It’s only four games. Already, there are disturbing trends. The lackadaisical starts are a concern. For a fourth straight game, they weren’t ready to play. It only took St. Louis 15 seconds to score. A awful Brady Skjei turnover allowed Jaden Schwartz to set up Carl Gunnarson for a goal with all five Rangers skaters standing around.

Even in their one win over Montreal Sunday, they were flat and were fortunate to have two goals disallowed. Otherwise, who knows. They could be 0-4. Ryan McDonagh mentioned that it’s up to the veteran leaders on the team to get off to better starts and pick up their play.

Even though Mika Zibanejad scored for a fourth straight game with his power play goal coming in direct response, there needs to be more consistency from all 18 skaters. Zibanejad’s fourth power play goal and team-leading fifth of the season came off another good play started by Kevin Shattenkirk. After a good keep, he took a good low shot that caromed to Pavel Buchnevich, who quickly made a beautiful backhand feed across that Zibanejad slammed home at 2:22.

The trouble right now is no one else is scoring. Kevin Hayes is off to a slow start. He only had 10:18 of ice time through two periods while not getting one power play shift. Hardly enough to find a rhythm with linemates Mats Zuccarello and Jimmy Vesey. Hayes is a top penalty killer who isn’t used on the man advantage. He played 16:04 in 21 shifts receiving 14:20 at even strength and 1:44 shorthanded.

Vesey had his best game so far after being elevated to the second line. He was twice thwarted by Hutton. But remains without a goal. Chris Kreider had a quiet game and remains without a goal despite three helpers. They need him to finish.

Rick Nash played a physical game delivering a huge hit following a successful penalty kill of a five on three created by a ill advised Steven Kampfer high stick. Nash did a lot of good things but again was kept off the scoresheet. He needs to get going. He played with J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner. It was a tough night for Miller, who turned over a couple of pucks and didn’t register a shot going minus-one in 14:56.

Grabner has yet to score. As usual, his gamebreaking speed is generating quality chances. He had a shorthanded breakaway Tuesday but couldn’t beat Hutton. Hutton also robbed Buchnevich in a busy third period where he was under siege. One stop left Buchnevich frustrated slamming his stick.

So much for playing the fourth line. David Desharnais hardly saw the ice in the third getting only 8:07 in 12 ineffective shifts. Paul Carey played even less. Adam Cracknell wore number 25 in his Rangers debut. He was noticeable getting a couple of shots and delivering six hits in 8:01. Until Jesper Fast gets back, they’re a three line team.

The most disturbing aspect is Alain Vigneault’s usage of the defense. A Kampfer turnover on a failed clearing attempt allowed Paul Stastny to keep the puck in and get it to Brayden Schenn. The ex-Flyer was able to somehow bank the puck in off Henrik Lundqvist’s pad for a power play goal at 13:30 of the first. Lundqvist wasn’t sure how it went in.

Despite Kampfer struggling in his second consecutive appearance, Vigneault somehow gave him and Nick Holden more minutes than Skjei through two periods. Granted. Skjei struggled the first two. But he played less than nine minutes until being used a lot more in the third with the team trailing. Why?

It also made no sense that Kampfer and Holden got more time against the Blues’ dangerous finisher Vladimir Tarasenko than any other tandem including McDonagh, who received over four minutes against Tarasenko’s line. Skjei and Shattenkirk hardly got any shifts against the St. Louis top scoring unit. Very perplexing.

Marc Staal had another solid game playing with McDonagh. The question is how long can it last. Brendan Smith practiced with the top six this morning in place of Kampfer. So, he’ll be back in for Friday’s match at Columbus. Tony DeAngelo apparently is in Vigneault’s doghouse for his giveaway that led to a Toronto goal in a embarrassing 8-5 loss on Saturday. He’s far from alone.

Why does Vigneault hold young players to a different standard than vets? There were plenty of sloppy turnovers Tuesday night. They may as well send DeAngelo down to Hartford and get him some real time. What’s the point keeping him up?

It took until the third for the Blueshirts to turn it up following a sleep inducing second. Unlike tonight when I attend the Guns N’ Roses concert, MSG sounded like a morgue.

At least Vigneault used  Skjei more. He got nearly eight minutes. He was by far the best skater in the period using his speed to jump into plays and create opportunities. He also drew a penalty. Of course, he didn’t see any power play time with in particular the second unit failing miserably with a Miller miscue forcing McDonagh to take a penalty.

On a abbreviated St. Louis power play, Stastny came very close but Lundqvist got his glove on the puck in the nick of time. They reviewed the play to see if it crossed the goal line. But replays were inconclusive.

Vigneault leaned heavily on Shattenkirk, McDonagh and Skjei when trailing in the final stanza with each all over seven minutes. If only he did it earlier. They were unable to beat Hutton, who has their number. His goaltending saved the Blues, who were content to sit back due to being out of gas. They got a Schwartz empty netter after Shattenkirk fell.

Chalk it all up and it was another disappointing loss. In a improved division, this isn’t the start the Rangers needed. With the Blue Jackets on Friday and the much more offensive minded Devils led by a trio of rookies Saturday, it won’t get any easier.

NYR 3 Stars:

Pavel Buchnevich-assisted on Zibanejad PPG, 7 attempts, very involved in 23 shifts (19:20) including 4:51 PP

Jimmy Vesey-very active, physical with 6 hits including one that bloodied Blues rookie Tage Thompson, 3 shots in 6 attempts, 18 shifts (15:25)

Mika Zibanejad-scored 4th PPG and 5th overall, 5 shots, 15-and-10 on draws, becoming a leader, 24 shifts (20:32) including 5:17 PP

NYR out-shot Blues 33-23 and out-attempted them 63-42.

Hits were 34-24 NYR led by Vesey’s 6.

Face-offs were 32-26 NYR paced by Zibanejad (15-for-25) with Desharnais 5 and 0. Stastny went 11-and-4 for St. Louis.

Blues blocked 20 shots led by Joel Edmundson (5).

Giveaways NYR 16 (Shattenkirk 4) Blues 9

2017 first round pick Filip Chytil convinced Jeff Gorton he wanted to get more experience in North America. So he will play for Hartford after being sent down. It’s encouraging that the Czech wants to learn.

Lias Andersson scored a goal yesterday for Frolunda.

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Rangers claim Adam Cracknell, get ready for Blues tonight

With a day off on Columbus Day, the Rangers made a move claiming forward Adam Cracknell off waivers.

The 32-year old from Saskatoon spent last year with the Stars setting career highs in games (69), goals (10), assists (6), points (16) and plus/minus (9).

What it likely means is he’ll become the extra forward on the roster. 2017 first round pick Filip Chytil has only gotten into two games with Alain Vigneault barely playing him. It doesn’t look like the 18-year old center will reach nine games. Figure the Rangers to send him back to Zlin ZPS HC in the Czech Republic where he can further develop. There’s no point in keeping him here.

With the team still carrying eight defensemen, that means they can keep 13 forwards. It doesn’t make sense to continue playing 11 forwards with seven D.

The Rangers host the Blues tonight. They were 3-2 winners over the Islanders in a shootout won by lethal sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. He also scored twice giving him three goals. He should be a handful for the Ranger blueline tonight.

We’ll see if Ryan McDonagh stays on the right side with Marc Staal. They’ve been good so far. We’ll see how long it lasts. Brady Skjei and Kevin Shattenkirk seem like a good fit. As for the third pair, it’s anyone’s guess. Figure Brendan Smith to get back in. Either Nick Holden or Steven Kampfer will sit. Does Tony DeAngelo play or sit?

All good questions. The Rangers look to even their record later.

 

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All hail the King: Lundqvist’s 62nd career shutout highlights 2-0 win

We’ve seen this script before. Henrik Lundqvist gets pulled in a bad loss and then comes back with a vengeance the next game. It was a no brainer for Alain Vigneault to go back to the 35-year old Swedish King following an early exit in Toronto.

Facing another struggling opponent who they’re quite familiar with, the Rangers got 34 saves from a laser focused Lundqvist to pitch a 2-0 shutout over Carey Price and the Canadiens at MSG. It was Lundqvist’s 62nd career shutout moving him past Turk Broda into 16th on the all-time list. He only had two all last year.

A rematch of last Spring’s first round pitting two elite goalies against each other was just what the doctor ordered for the Rangers. Particularly Lundqvist, who bested Price in a well goaltended six-game series.

Coming off a disjointed match that saw his team allow five goals in the first period in a 8-5 loss to the Leafs, Vigneault made some lineup changes. He benched Brendan Smith for Nick Holden and dressed Steven Kampfer as a seventh defenseman which meant rookie Filip Chytil was a healthy scratch.

What it likely means is the 21st overall pick will be sent back to the Czech Republic. He’s hardly played which isn’t beneficial for his development. The coach is to blame. Vigneault mentioned that he would discuss Chytil further with Jeff Gorton.

As for sitting Smith, he earned it with some unsteady play the first two games. This is a guy who just re-signed over three years. Imagine if that standard applied to other vets with bigger contracts. It was the right move. Kampfer played physical and gave the team a lift. Holden was okay too.

I’m not fond of going with seven D and 11 forwards. Don’t expect it to continue. At some point, Holden will be traded. Whenever that is, they’ll be down to seven D and will be able to call up a forward. Vinny Lettieri would be the most likely candidate.

In terms of the game, the Rangers were flat at the outset. Montreal came out aggressively using their speed to create scoring chances off the cycle. They were unable to score legally on Lundqvist, who got some help from a successful coach’s challenge that negated a Andrew Shaw goal due to an intentional kick.

The Habs also had another goal wiped out due to video review. Max Pacioretty contacted Lundqvist before scoring. It was a reversal of the call on the ice. It was one of those that could’ve gone either way. Ryan McDonagh was there and gave a slight shove. But Pacioretty banged into Lundqvist knocking him to the seat of his pants. It was probably the right call even though Habs Twitter didn’t agree.

After giving up a lot of shots early, the Rangers settled in and played a better second half. Eventually, they got their offensive game going. Price made a couple of sparkling saves denying Rick Nash twice including a fancy toe save to deny him in tight.

With only 11 forwards, Nash played with J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner. They were really good. Miller shifted to center with Chytil watching from the press box. The versatile forward assisted on a Brady Skjei goal with under three minutes left to break a scoreless tie. Grabner drew the primary. Skjei had his centering pass for Grabner deflect off a Hab past Price.

Unlike Saturday, there weren’t many penalties. The Habs had only one power play while the Rangers got three. They had seven shots on Price, who was good despite the lack of support from a anemic offense. How a team with Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault and Shea Weber can’t score is beyond comprehension. Claude Julien isn’t a offensive coach. The blueline is suffering minus Andrei Markov. Not good on GM Marc Bergevin. Habs fans hate him.

If there was a constant from the final two periods at Toronto, it was Lindy Ruff’s new first and second pairings. McDonagh again played the right side with Marc Staal on the left. Skjei was with Kevin Shattenkirk, who has looked better since teaming with the second-year defenseman. They look like they should be a thing. Not sure how long Staal stays with McDonagh. His minutes must be managed. He was strong in 19:08 with McDonagh getting 20:25.

The third pair was Holden and Kampfer with Tony DeAngelo the odd man out. Something I called. His giveaway that led to a Toronto goal and minus-two must’ve soured Vigneault. He can have a short leash with young players. DeAngelo only took six shifts getting a grand total of 3:45. Half came on the power play (1:37). That bares watching.

With Lundqvist benefiting from two no goals and turning back the clock with some King saves including a quick glove on a high tester from Artturi Lehkonen, the only question was would he get the shutout. Was there ever any doubt?

Mika Zibanejad scored for a third straight game in the third. Pavel Buchnevich made a great pass from behind the net to Zibanejad, whose quick release caught Price leaning for his team best fourth with 10:50 remaining. It was his first even strength goal. Chris Kreider picked up a assist. He has no goals but three helpers thus far.

Montreal emptied the net with over two minutes to go. It didn’t matter. It was a happy Henrik and a bunch of happier Blueshirts who celebrated their first win. Badly needed.

Three NYR Stars:

Henrik Lundqvist-34 saves for first shutout of season-62nd career, King Henrik has so much character

Brady Skjei-1st of season for GWG, 3 blocks, +1 in 21 shifts-16:33, looks poised with ShattDeuces

Steven Kampfer-took 20 shifts pairing up with Holden and provided steadiness, a good extra D

Oddity: How did Skjei receive less ice-time than Holden or Kampfer? It was the third in four.

NYR controlled face-offs 29-22 led by Miller (10-and-3). A marked improvement from the Leafs loss where they were dominated 46-31. Drouin led the Habs going 9-and-6.

Rangers blocked 17 shots paced by Skjei (3). Four skaters had at least two. Canadiens totaled 9 (Weber/Jordie Benn-2 each).

Shots were 34-25 Montreal. They also led in attempts 63-43. So, the Rangers were out-Corsied. I don’t think they cared.

Columbus Day features 7 games including 3 matinees. The Islanders host the Blues, who will also visit the Rangers on Tuesday. The Devils are at the Sabres at 3 PM. Start time for the Isles is 1. The Bruins host the Avalanche at 1 too.

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Game 3: Vigneault at it already benching Chytil, 11 F 7 D vs Habs, Lundqvist vs Price

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Well, it sure didn’t take Alain Vigneault long to sour on number one pick Filip Chytil. Having only played the talented 18-year old center less than 13 total minutes in two games, the stubborn coach will healthy scratch the kid for tonight’s home match against the Canadiens.

Vigneault has decided to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen. So, you can forget about having four balanced lines. He’ll mix and match by shifting J.T. Miller back to center. He was used there in the third period of last night’s 8-5 loss at Toronto.

With the D struggling, Nick Holden gets into his first game. How he’ll be used I have no idea. Both Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Smith struggled mightily Saturday. Each were victimized badly on a couple of goals.

What is the plan regarding the top four? New assistant Lindy Ruff tried Marc Staal with Ryan McDonagh and had Brady Skjei teamed with Kevin Shattenkirk by the second period. Both pairings were successful.

Holden is better suited for a offensive role due to his skating and shot. Staal and Smith must be in defensive roles with the latter needing a dramatic improvement to justify his three-year contract. DeAngelo has the big shot and should continue to see power play time.

As for the lines, figure Mika Zibanejad to stay together with Pavel Buchnevich. Does Chris Kreider stay put or work with Miller? We’ll see. Kevin Hayes now will center the second line. He could theoretically still play with Michael Grabner but with Miller at center, that combo won’t be together.

Who does Rick Nash and Jimmy Vesey play with? Vesey should be higher than the fourth line. He should receive more shifts. Similar to yesterday once Vigneault sat Chytil, who did nothing wrong in nine shifts (4:59). Nothing this coach does makes sense.

After getting chased for five goals in the first period, Henrik Lundqvist gets his third start. It’s a chance to redeem himself. He faces Carey Price who had his own bad start with the red hot Alex Ovechkin sniping four goals in a 6-1 drubbing.

So, it pits two star goalies against each other who both have something to prove.

Montreal also is making two changes. Mark Streit and Ales Hemsky come out. Brandon Davidson and Torrey Mitchell come in.

I’ll bet newest Hab Jonathan Drouin can’t wait to face our defense. He should have a field day. Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty are also keys to the Montreal offense along with pest Brendan Gallagher. No more Alex Radulov. He’s in Dallas. But Drouin should be a tough assignment.

It goes without saying that this is a game the Rangers should win. They need it. Whether or not they’re up to the task remains to be seen.

Shattenkirk and Mika Zibanejad have led an improved power play so far with them combining for four power play goals. That’s what ShattDeuces gives you.

This is the third game in four nights. Full review later.

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UnbeLeafable: Lundqvist chased as defenseless Rangers give up eight in 8-5 loss to Maple Leafs

So much for getting off to a quick start. In Game 2 of 82, the Rangers didn’t show much resistance to start the first period. It resulted in the very dangerous Maple Leafs scoring five goals on Henrik Lundqvist chasing him en route to a 8-5 win in Toronto.

That makes the Rangers two for two so far. In losing their first two games, they’ve allowed 12 goals. At least the home opener was competitive. In Lundqvist’s words, it was embarrassing. They didn’t backcheck and allowed the supremely skilled Leafs to do whatever they wanted.

Following a Dominic Moore deflection for the first goal, J.T. Miller got his first by deflecting home a Chris Kreider shot in front to even the score. Miller was one of the few bright spots notching a goal and assist. But that was only offensively.

The Leafs responded by scoring the next four. It started when Zach Hyman took full advantage of a bad turnover from Tony DeAngelo. He tried a pass that didn’t work landing right on the stick of William Nylander. He quickly got the puck over to Hyman, who tucked it in past a sprawling Lundqvist.

Jake Gardiner then proceeded to skate through Brendan Smith, Mats Zuccarello and Brady Skjei to go short side top for a power play goal increasing to 3-1. Lundqvist completely missed Nikita Zaitsev’s point shot with Smith partially screening him by going for a block. It was still stoppable.

It was pretty obvious that the Rangers couldn’t handle the Leafs’ speed. The crazy part is Auston Matthews didn’t score a goal. That’s how talented they are. He had a primary assist on a back breaking goal later. Thirteen different Leafs hit the scoresheet.

As if Lundqvist’s night couldn’t get any worse, he had his own teammate Michael Grabner put a puck past him to make it 5-1. He went to cover the puck when Grabner accidentally put it in his own net. A goal credited to Hyman.

Before the period let out, Kevin Shattenkirk scored a power play goal to give the team some hope. With 23 seconds remaining, his wrist shot from the right point got past Frederik Andersen thanks to a double screen from Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. Mats Zuccarello and Kreider drew assists.

Trailing 5-2, coach Alain Vigneault gave Lundqvist the rest of the night off. Ondrej Pavelec made his first appearance. To his credit, he was good. The former Winnipeg Jet made some key saves giving his team a chance for a comeback.

They certainly didn’t quit. It might not have been the result they wanted. But the Blueshirts showed a lot of heart rallying from a four goal deficit to tie the score in a dominant second stanza.

Mika Zibanejad stayed hot to start the season by notching his team-leading third goal. All three have come on the power play. Shattenkirk once again set him up for his big shot that found twine. Zuccarello assisted. He had a big night recording a career high four points.

With the defense struggling, new assistant Lindy Ruff changed all three pairs. He shifted Shattenkirk to the second unit with Skjei while surprisingly moving up Marc Staal to pair with Ryan McDonagh. He and Shattenkirk have struggled so far together caught on for too many goals against.

Staal stayed on the left side while the versatile McDonagh switched to the right. Astonishingly, the move worked. Staal played a very good game even factoring in on the next two Ranger goals. Not known for his offense, the proud veteran went to the front of the net on a delayed penalty and redirected a Zuccarello shot pass to cut it to 5-4. He showed some emotion afterwards.

Less than two minutes later, Paul Carey dug out a puck in the corner getting it to Miller. He dished across for a Staal one-timer which Zuccarello got a stick on to beat Andersen at 14:06 to tie the score. The league checked to make sure it wasn’t a high stick. Conclusive replays showed that the crafty Zuccarello got his stick below crossbar height making it a good goal. That gave him his first ever four point NHL game. Fitting for a team leader who finally gets to wear an ‘A.’

The comeback wouldn’t have been possible without a couple of huge stops from a sharp Pavelec. He played well. In relief of Lundqvist, he stopped 21 of 24 shots. Lundqvist allowed five on 17.

The third could’ve gone either way. But controversy impacted the game. Mitch Marner had a puck caught in his uniform as he gained the Rangers blueline. The play continued. Eventually, the Leafs spent a extended shift in the Ranger zone tiring them out. Finally, Marner fed a wide open Tyler Bozak in front for a one-timer past a helpless Pavelec. The entire five man unit got caught standing still including Miller and Shattenkirk, who were the closest.

Vigneault saw something. He went for a offsides challenge to try to negate the goal. Considering the replays showed Marner with a puck in his paraphernalia, it’s hard to conclude that he had clear possession. Joe Micheletti didn’t think so. Neither did my friends as we watched it in my buddy’s house in South River. It really should’ve been reversed. Interestingly, Vigneault agreed with the ruling.

Instead, they held it up giving the Leafs a 6-5 lead. Typical Toronto. Even in a game the Rangers had no business being in, they got screwed. All due to the Toronto bias. Not only did it put the Rangers behind, but due to the new rule on a failed offsides challenge, they were penalized. Exasperating is one way to describe the NHL.

Kevin Hayes made it worse by taking a slashing minor handing Toronto a goal. You can’t give them that many opportunities. Matthews got his one assist when he made a brilliant one touch feed leading Nylander in on Pavelec, who had no chance on a brilliant backhand that caromed off the crossbar right to Leo Komarov which made it a two goal swing. That was it.

Nazem Kadri added another PPG for final bookkeeping. In total, there were nine power plays. The Rangers went 2 for 3 while the Leafs were 3 for 6. So of the 13 total goals, five were scored on the power play.

It would be very easy for me to kill the Rangers for last night. They weren’t ready and didn’t compete. The lack of backchecking was disturbing. So was the defense. In particular, Smith who was caught out for three goals against. He didn’t have a good preseason. I wouldn’t worry. He’s only signed for three years.

They can’t expect Staal to have good games consistently. He was by far their best defenseman. Not good. I think they should keep Shattenkirk with Skjei, who at this point is a better defensive defenseman than McDonagh. Skjei keeps opponents honest. Use McDonagh and Shattenkirk for offensive zone starts.

What will they do against Montreal tonight? Would you really keep Staal with McDonagh? Smith and DeAngelo can be a third pair. So can Staal and DeAngelo, who could be in the press box for Nick Holden.

My only gripe is the lack of confidence Vigneault has in Filip Chytil. He didn’t even play five minutes last night not taking one shift in the third. How is he supposed to learn? It’s on the coach to play the kid more. He’s got unique skill that the team lacks. Before it gets to nine games, let’s see what he can do.

Three NYR Stars:

Marc Staal-goal, assist in 32 shifts-18:51, played well

Ondrej Pavelec-3 GA on 24 shots, made some timely stops unlike Lundqvist to give the team a chance

Mats Zuccarello-career high 4 points-1-3-4 in 27 shifts-17:26, terrific competitor

Honorable Mentions: Paul Carey, Kevin Shattenkirk, J.T. Miller

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