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What we learned from the Rangers season opener

Bobby Bevilacqua

  • Oscar Lindberg seems like a bona fide pro. His performance against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks was an encouraging sign of what is to come, and he was my first star from the game.. Lindberg opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game, killing the atmosphere at the United Center. He nearly scored again, but was denied in front by Crawford. For a lot of the night, Lindberg was the best forward on the team. He was a monster defensively, won six of the nine faceoffs he took, and helped spark the offensive production from the third line. Vigneault trusted him enough to try him out as the third line center, giving him more offensive freedom and opportunities to score. Lindberg’s performance, and the whole line’s performance, is part of the reason why there’s no lineup change for tomorrow. Excellent first game from Lindberg.
Oscar Lindberg physical play 10-7

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

  • JT Miller was Lindberg’s linemate last night, and my goodness was he impressive. Miller kicked off the night with an assist on Lindberg’s goal, making a sweet cross crease pass right to the rookie’s stick. He made an equally impressive pass to Keith Yandle, picking up a secondary assist on Kevin Klein’s goal. While I said that I thought that Chris Kreider could eclipse 30 goals this season, or in the near future, I also said that JT Miller could easily be a 40 point player. Vigneault knows him and trusts him now, which is great for his confidence.
  • Speaking of Chris Kreider, he was playing like a man possessed against Chicago. He was effectively using his blend of speed and strength to pressure the opposing defenders. If he hit the net a bit more consistently, I’m sure he would have scored a goal or two. And I think he will score in Columbus.
  • No need to worry about Kevin Hayes. After a poor preseason, Hayes fit in perfectly alongside Derek Stepan and fellow Boston College Eagle Chris Kreider. There was some concern over whether or not Hayes could still be a playmaker on the wing, and it seems like he can be. His assist on Derek Stepan’s goal showed excellent awareness and hockey instincts. On top of that, he won all five of the faceoffs that he took. Hayes can stickhandle in a phone booth and pass just as well as anyone on the team, so I’m excited to see him in a top six role.

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Lundqvist, Rangers spoil Blackhawks banner party; Lindberg nets first career goal

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers vs Blackhawks 10-7

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

After what seemed like a never ending banner ceremony, celebrating what the Rangers fell short of achieving last season, Vigneault and his squad spoiled the party.

The Rangers came out guns blazing, quickly jumping out to a lead and never looking back, ultimately topping the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks by a final score of 3-2.

For the most part, this was a very encouraging performance from the new-look Blueshirts, especially from the back end of the lineup. Henrik Lundqvist was excellent between the pipes, the third line was electric throughout the night, and Kevin Hayes fit right in with Stepan and Kreider.

New York have been good during the first game of the year, posting a 7-3-1 record in their last 11 season openers dating back to the 2005-06 season. They’ve also won back-to-back road season openers for the first time since 1955-58, when they won three straight. Read the rest of this entry

Rangers aim to start season strong on the road in Chicago

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers celebrate a goal 9-30

The Rangers are back! Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The long wait is finally over, and New York Rangers hockey is back!

The New York Rangers will begin their 89th season in the NHL on the road against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, fellow Original Six franchise, the Chicago Blackhawks. This is now the eighth straight season that the Rangers begin the season away from Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers will have to watch as they raise yet another Championship banner into the rafters at the United Center, a reminder of what has eluded them over the past few seasons. Perhaps the Rangers could use this as a source of motivation and work towards having this ceremony at MSG next season.

Tonight’s matchup is a game between two of the elite teams from last season. The Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy last season with a franchise record 113 points, while the Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup since 2010. Read the rest of this entry

Is a seven man defensive rotation a possibility for the Rangers?

Bobby Bevilacqua

dan girardi and ryan mcdonagh

Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh may need some rest at points during the season, and Vigneault may want to use a seven man rotation on the blue line. Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennet/Getty Images.

In baseball, some teams will opt to utilize a six man pitching rotation in order to keep the arms of their young pitchers fresh, as well as give pitchers who are recovering from injury more time to rest. The Mets used this strategy for most of the season, preserving the arms of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

Why not apply this same idea to hockey?

The Rangers are coming off of a season that saw many of their defenders go down with injuries. Dan Boyle broke his hand. Ryan McDonagh hurt his shoulder and broke his foot. Kevin Klein broke his arm. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi both needed surgery on their ankles. And Keith Yandle sprained his shoulder in the playoffs. Read the rest of this entry

Rangers “minor” offseason moves proving to be not so minor

Bobby Bevilacqua

viktor stalberg profile full body 9-30

Viktor Stalberg is just one of the many successful depth moves made by Jeff Gorton to improve the roster, prepare them for any potential injuries, and give them options at other positions. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers didn’t make any big splashes in free agency like they usually do. No huge signings, no blockbuster trades. And that’s why people wrote off their offseason moves as just slight depth moves, and not major improvements.

But if you look at the situation that Vigneault faced during final cuts after last year’s preseason games and compare it to now, those so-called “minor moves” are actually pretty darn important.

Last year, the Rangers were in a lot of trouble before the season started, losing Derek Stepan to a broken leg. He was slated to be their number one center, and Vigneault didn’t have Brian Boyle or Brad Richards anymore to step up as a substitute. Read the rest of this entry