AV spreading ice time and opportunities will be key to Rangers success
The Rangers opened their season with a 5-3 win over the Islanders, showing signs of improvement in many aspects of their game that was expected of them following their offseason moves. The power play looked great, the defense and penalty kill looked structured, and all four forward lines were effective.
With the addition of players like Pavel Buchnevich, Jimmy Vesey, Brandon Pirri and Michael Grabner, the Rangers added a lot of speed and talent to their forward groups, which seemed to make Alain Vigneault structure his lines differently.
Rather than opting for a traditional structure, with a physical, checking fourth line and placing all of the talent on the top two lines, Vigneault had a balance of scoring, defense and skill across the four lines. Having four lines was something that many blogs, including my own, wrote about as a possibility. And last night, it worked extremely well.
The line that opened the scoring was the fourth line. It’s no coincidence that when the Rangers opted for a speedy, skillful fourth line to start the year, that line wound up opening up the scoring. Fast and Grabdner were great defensively, and are quick and talented enough to transition the puck effectively up the ice. Having Pirri down the middle gives the team a real offensive threat when that line is on the ice, plus they can then use him on the power play.
The second goal was scored by Mats Zuccarello, who was on the ice with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider at the time. Chris Kreider scored the big third goal with that KZB line, and Pirri scored the game winner on the power play. JT Miller scored the fifth goal into the empty net, and the third line of Miller, Hayes and Nash caused the Isles fits all night.
It’s not often that you see a team score and create so many chances in that many ways. Every line that was on the ice was a threat at some point in the game. The fourth line was one of the teams’ best actually.
On any given night, any given line can lead the Rangers in scoring. When you have that kind of talent spread out across the lines, it makes the team a threat in more ways than one. If teams throw out their best defenseman against Rick Nash on the third line and the KZB line, then that means that Stepan and Zuccarello are going to have more chances and the fourth line can try and exploit defensive gaps with their speed.
I also talked about how Nash on the third line doesn’t mean he’s demoted or playing a lesser role, and last night was indicative of that. No forward on the Rangers played fewer than 10:47 and nobody played more than 17:46. Every forward played at least 1:50 on special teams too, whether that be the penalty kill or the power play.
If you though the Rangers looked engaged and aggressive for 60 minutes last night, this explains that. Vigneault did a fantastic job of spreading out responsibilities and roles to everyone. You didn’t have Nash and Stepan playing a ton of minutes on the kill and the power play, on top of even strength duties. Guys like Kevin Hayes and JT Miller came in and played shorthanded a little bit.
This is the way the team should play moving forward. All of the forwards looked fresh and active throughout the game, nobody seemed to be tired or lacking, and everyone got their fair share of ice time. With all of the talent the Rangers have and with the way they spread out their players, this is the formula for success for Vigneault and the Rangers.
Posted on October 14, 2016, in In the Crease, Uncategorized and tagged Alain Vigneault, Buchnevich, Grabner, Jeff Gorton, Madison Square Garden, Mika Zibanejad, MSG, New York Rangers, NHL, NYR, Pirri, Rangers, Rangers blog, Rangers highlights, Rangers lines, Rangers lineup, Rangers vs Islanders, Rick Nash, Vesey. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.