The Rangers look to shake off a tough one goal defeat over the weekend when they host the Avalanche tonight at 7 PM. It promise to be another tough test. After doing a solid job against Connor McDavid even though he scored and set up Edmonton’s two goals, they’ll have to deal with another superstar in Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon. The Hart runner up is off to a good start with six goals and an assist so far.
MacKinnon centers one of the league’s best lines, teaming with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, whose seven helpers and eight points lead the Avalanche. It’ll be interesting to see if coach David Quinn decides to go head to head with the top line of Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Jesper Fast. They did a good job at five on five against McDavid by making his line play in its end. Zibanejad played his best game of the season, scoring his first goal and hitting two posts. Hopefully, that’ll get him going.
The big story entering tonight’s match is Quinn’s decision to healthy scratch Pavel Buchnevich. The third-year Russian finds himself in a familiar spot under a new coach. It can’t be too pleasing for the young 23-year old who has two goals and an assist in the Rangers’ first five games. Unfortunately, he played a bad game on Saturday, going without a shot attempt. He was so invisible that he got benched for most of the third period.
During yesterday’s practice, he was rotating in with Cody McLeod on the fourth line. In my last write up, I speculated that Buchnevich could find himself on the fourth line following Saturday’s disappointing game. I was wondering if McLeod would be in versus his former team for either Buchnevich or Ryan Spooner, who also didn’t see the ice much in the third. With the first-year coach declaring that he needed to get rookie Filip Chytil more ice time, it was obvious that the 19-year old Czech would move into the top nine by shifting to wing. That meant someone was going to be dropped.
Buchnevich has talent which should be obvious. His combination of skating, puck skills and playmaking capabilities make him a good candidate to break out. That can still happen. It was interesting listening to Quinn explain that he can live with certain mistakes as long as the players are putting in the effort. Clearly, he didn’t feel Buchnevich gave a honest one. So, he comes out tonight, similarly to what Alain Vigneault did to him. The only difference is with Quinn, he’s a straight shooter. There won’t be any confusion why Buchnevich will be in the press box when we are at MSG in a few hours. It’s my first regular season game after being unable to attend the feel good win against San Jose due to not feeling well.
The Blueshirts are 1-4-0 in last place in the Metro Division. It’s not a surprise. With key players off to inconsistent starts including Kevin Hayes, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Shattenkirk, Kreider and Zibanejad, it’s no wonder they are where they are in the standings. At least they have a win unlike the Panthers and Red Wings, who got the doors blown off by the Canadiens yesterday. Detroit could be the worst team in the league. They’ll have some competition from Arizona, who still hasn’t scored a goal on home ice. Florida is struggling without starter Roberto Luongo. There’s still too much talent for them to continue to play bad.
As for the Rangers, they need their best players to perform better. That’s the only way they can be competitive. It’s advisable for them to not put Colorado on the power play. It’s also a good idea to listen to Quinn and be harder on the puck when they forecheck. He wants to see them get the uniform dirty. There’s a reason they aren’t drawing penalties on home ice.
The lines look like this:
So, Chytil gets a chance with Hayes and Zuccarello. That could work. We know Chytil has a lot of skill. Maybe it’ll rub off on Hayes and Zuccarello. Spooner centers McLeod and Vinni Lettieri on the fourth line. The second line is Brett Howden with Jimmy Vesey and Vladislav Namestnikov, who deserves this opportunity based on the past three games.
Neal Pionk is back in on the blueline with Adam McQuaid expected to sit out for the first time. Tony DeAngelo remains a healthy scratch. I hope he gets back in tomorrow.
Henrik Lundqvist gets the start. Expect him to get both games with the Capitals tomorrow night. The Rangers don’t play again until Sunday when they host Calgary.
I’m not sure who Colorado will start. Semyon Varlamov was not too good in his last outing, but is off to a good start. He remains the starter there with another former Cap Philipp Grubauer backing up.
I’ll have a full game review later.