It was quite the offseason for the New York Rangers. Chris Drury was named the new President and General Manager. Pavel Buchnevich was shipped to St. Louis for Sammy Blais and a 2nd round pick in 2022. Ryan Reaves was brought in to make the team tougher to play against and Barclay Goodrow was traded for and then subsequently signed to a six year deal to give the Rangers Stanley Cup winning depth. Prize prospect Nils Lundkvist finally made his way over to New York and Gerard Gallant was hired to be the bench boss. How have these moves worked out so far? Let’s jump into the first week of New York Rangers hockey.
The Rangers season began with a bloodbath against the Washington Capitals… wait what? You mean there wasn’t a fight? Reaves didn’t fight the always controversial Tom Wilson? The bloodbath that many thought would happen and the fight that everyone was waiting for between Reaves and Wilson never occurred and the Rangers would get beat down 5-1 in a season opening loss. They seemed to be behind the play the entire night and they were chasing pucks rather than controlling the play. Chris Kreider’s power-play goal would be the lone bright spot in a game that the team would rather forget. Back-up Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev had a forgettable night and has not started since and it’s clear the team still needed time to get used to Gallant’s system of hockey. Caps rookie Hendrix Lapierre would score his first NHL in the Rangers loss.
Next up, the Rangers would take on the Dallas Stars in their home opener at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers would ultimately play a much better game here, getting two goals from 2021 Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox and another goal from Chris Kreider. Igor Shesterkin looked much better than Georgiev and the team looked to have a little more jump in their step than the night before. Stars rookie Jacob Peterson would score his first NHL goal, a trend that always seems to happen to the Rangers. Radek Faksa would score for the Stars as well. The game entered overtime with the score deadlocked at two goals at piece but it was the Stars who would have the last laugh on a chilly Thursday night in New York. Miro Hesikanen would send the puck past Shesterkin in overtime to send the Stars home with a 3-2 OT win. The Rangers played a much better game but it’s clear there were still kinks of their game that needed to be worked out.
Nothing like a trip to the Bell Centre against the hapless Montreal Canadiens to get this team their first win of the season. Chris Kreider would open the scoring with his third goal of the season in the second period, on the power-play of course. Jonathan Drouin would get the Habs on the board in the third. With the game tied 1-1 it looked like overtime may be looming yet again but the number one overall pick from the 2020 NHL draft had other plans. Alexis Lafreniere would break a 1-1 tie after finishing off a slick feed from Mika Zibanejad on a 2-on-1 opportunity to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. Lafreniere has looked like a different player this year already and it’s great to see the number one overall pick start to come out of his shell. The Saint-Eustache, Quebec native said he felt great scoring in Montreal in front of friends and family. Kevin Rooney nailed the empty net for a 3-1 Rangers win. Shesterkin would save 31 shots and Gerard Gallant would grab his first win as head coach of the New York Rangers. It was a fun night in Montreal.
Next up, the Rangers would visit the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Scotiabank Centre in downtown Toronto. Mika Zibanejad would go top cheddar on Jack Campbell for an early 1-0 Rangers lead and Michael Bunting would tie the game in the second for the Leafs but lets be real here, this game was the Igor Shesterkin show, let’s give the man his due. Shesterkin made 40 saves, robbing the Leafs on multiple high danger chances throughout regulation and overtime. Speaking of the overtime, the Rangers and Leafs put on one of the most thrilling 3-on-3 OT’s I’ve ever seen and the Rangers would ultimately get the last laugh. After Shesterkin committed robbery after robbery in overtime, robbing Matthews and Nylander and others, Artemi Panarin would have the last laugh. Panarin would score at 3:48 of overtime with a blistering snap shot that sailed past Campbell to give the Rangers a 2-1 win. They all hopefully paid for Igor Shesterkin’s dinner and hopefully everyone on the team appreciated the gutsy performance he put in. After starting the season with two losses, the Rangers suddenly have two wins.
The road trip rolls on as the Rangers visited the Nashville Predators on Thursday night, 10/23. In the opening minutes, newly minted second line center Filip Chytil (Ryan Strome is out for COVID protocol reasons) snapped a backhander past Jusse Saros for a 1-0 Rangers lead. Chytil, one of the Rangers two first rounders from 2017, has gotten better and better each season in the league and he looks primed to have a big year. Head Coach Gerard Gallant put Chytil between Lafreniere and Sammy Blais to form a young, big, skilled second line and that first goal wouldnt be the only time that line made their presence known. Predators rookie Phil Tomasino would tie the game in the second period off a flukey kind of shot for his first NHL goal. The Rangers would take the lead back when Adam Fox, Blais and Lafreniere made some magic on the ice together. Fox would dish the puck to Blais who then toe-dragged the puck around Preds defenseman Alexandre Carrier. Blais would then dish the puck to Lafreniere who snapped a shot past Saros for a 2-1 Rangers lead. It was a beautiful goal and the Rangers would not relinquish the lead. Barclay Goodrow would seal the win with an empty netter for a 3-1 Rangers win. Igor Shesterkin would again have a huge night with 28 saves. That’s three straight road wins for the Rangers and three wins overall on the season. They are currently second in the Metro division.
Editor’s Note: Saturday October 23rd’s game against the Ottawa Senators will be included in next week’s Rangers Weekly.