Ever since Carter Hutton played for St. Louis, he’s had our number. Originally a Nashville backup goalie before posting a NHL best .931 save percentage with the Blues last season, now he’s the starter in Buffalo. After a bad start in new captain Jack Eichel’s first game- a 4-0 shutout loss to Boston- the Sabres defeated the Rangers 3-1 for their first win behind 43 saves from E.F. Hutton. He improved to a perfect 4-0-0 versus the Rangers.
It is truly mind boggling. Hutton turns into Dominik Hasek when he faces our team. As soon as he sees Ranger colors, his eyes light up. I’m convinced that if they fired 70 shots on him, he’d stop them all. At least they don’t have to face him 82 times. I’m not a gambler, but if I was, you better believe I would’ve taken the Sabres tonight. Our past success is over.
I’m glad expectations are low because it takes the edge off. I can freely flip to more important games such as the Yankees and Red Saaahhxx. I’ll be honest. The Miami Hurricanes came back from 20 down to beat Florida State. It didn’t end till around 7:30. I was locked in and surprisingly ecstatic since they were lousy for a half before awakening to win 28-27. I don’t ask for much. That was nice to see as were the Yankees pummeling David Price into submission with blasts from Aaron Judge and star of the night, Gary Sanchez. I’m pretty sure his second home run still hasn’t landed. That was a huge win to earn a split with the next two at home.
Enough about that. I’m not going to bore you too much after the Rangers’ second consecutive loss to start the season. They’re 0-2-0 due to being unable to score goals. It’s not the defense. The effort has been there for many players. The problem is the top line has yet to get going. I know he shaved his head, but has anyone seen Chris Kreider? Hopefully, his whereabouts can be found in Raleigh at 5 PM today against Carolina. He needs to be a lot better. I’ll cut Mika Zibanejad some slack since he assisted on Pavel Buchnevich’s goal the other day, and had eight shots with another three attempts missing completely. He also won some big face offs late to give them a chance. But the comeback fell short with Eichel blocking a shot and scoring his first into an open net with seconds to spare.
It’s too early to panic. If you outshoot an opponent by a significant margin and don’t allow a goal at even strength, you’re gonna win on most nights. The Blueshirts have only allowed two goals at five on five thus far. That’s an improvement over the shenanigans we saw last year. Now, they must work on the penalty kill which allowed two Sabres power play goals. Even if a tacky call went against Kreider, followed by a complete miss of Buffalo having six skaters out for Conor Sheary’s first of two power play goals, they had enough chances against Hutton.
I’m more annoyed at the missed elbow from Patrik Berglund on Filip Chytil. How is that not a penalty? It was high and Chytil missed some shifts before returning. Hopefully, he’s okay. He still played over 17 minutes with David Quinn giving him a shift with Zibanejad and Kreider. Eventually, he returned to the third line with Ryan Spooner and Jesper Fast. Spooner had a more active game assisting on rookie Brett Howden’s first NHL goal. Howden took Chytil’s place when he was out. He was able to nudge a loose puck past Hutton to finally beat him. By that point, they trailed 2-1 with under five minutes to play. Defenseman Adam McQuaid got the primary helper with his shot rebounding out to Howden, who looked good wearing his new number 21. He also was strong on draws going 10 and 6.
Quinn shook things up by benching a ineffective Vladislav Namestnikov for Cody McLeod. McLeod didn’t play a lot, but was more noticeable, which isn’t saying much. He fought Nathan Beaulieu in the first period. I missed it. He and Vinni Lettieri didn’t see much ice in the third with the team down by two. Neither did Buchnevich or Kevin Hayes. Quinn felt that other players had it going and went with them down the stretch. That’s fine.
Basically, Buffalo held on. They iced the puck a few times and sat back. They were lucky the Rangers didn’t tie it. Hutton was a big reason why. Eichel also made a great defensive play to block a Kevin Shattenkirk shot from the point. He did what it took to get his team the win, also picking up an assist on Sheary’s second power play tally 41 seconds into the third.
Sometimes, that’s how it goes. Maybe they won’t play as well against a rested Carolina and win. Henrik Lundqvist usually plays well versus them. He’s looked good so far. Neither loss was his fault. It’s going to take some time for the players to adjust to a new system.
I like what I see from Jimmy Vesey. He continues to work hard and is earning more shifts. I know he took the blame for Buffalo’s first goal. But two other Rangers pinched up including Brady Skjei. So when Vesey didn’t get the puck deep in the Buffalo zone, the defense got caught which led to a two on one with Sheary burying one on a pass from Rasmus Ristolainen. Casey Mittlestadt had the other helper.
The defense can use another skater who can keep pucks in. I don’t see how you can play Brendan Smith and McQuaid daily. Tony DeAngelo needs to be given a shot. His camp was better. Shattenkirk and Skjei are the only two good skaters they have in the current top six. Marc Staal does as well as he can. Neal Pionk is decent and plays both power play and penalty kill. But if DeAngelo came in, he could play the point on the second power play unit, spelling Pionk, who plays a lot. Staal only played over 14 minutes. He was managed.
It’s a work in progress. It’s hard to get upset when they give a good effort like Saturday. The result wasn’t there. The offense has to get going. Quinn won’t hesitate to try new combinations. I’m sure Namestnikov will be back in for McLeod later. Hopefully, he wakes up.
So must the KZB Line. They’re being counted on to lead the way. I’m sure after the Giants play an ugly game at Carolina, I’ll be in a mood for hockey.