Big Ben Tuesday: An Early Look at the Impressive Start by the New York Rangers

Broadway, New York City, NY: I don’t think I’m capable of adding another drop to the ocean of misery by discussing the Giants and Jets game. It’s all been said. Tommy DeVito made me pine for the glory days of Jake Fromm when they were terrified to call a passing play. What an imperfect storm of screw ups to end that game. Sometimes it feels like the refs, I hear you Diontae Johnson, or the great gods up in Mount Olympus, are out to get you. What should we cover then? Swift and Kelce? The Rugby Wold Cup final? F it Dude, let’s go skating. How about an early look at the Rangers?

The flow is gone…

The Rangers just plowed through Canada (and Seattle), sweeping a five game road trip. The team is seven and two, atop the Metropolitan division, and second in the Eastern Conference to Boston. What has been impressive is the defense. The Rangers have given up on 18 goals, the fewest in the league (tied with Dallas, but they have only played seven games). Strong goaltending has helped, but the team has quickly bought into new coach Peter Laviolette’s system, and the 1-3-1, with minimal growing pains.

What is Working

Artemi Panarin

Fresh off a second straight disappointing playoff performance, the Bread Man looks like the same awesome player upgraded software. I knew that hair was slowing him down. He has been more aggressive in shooting more, looks quicker and even more creative with the puck, but somehow seems to be taking fewer chances at the same time. He has 15 points, which is tied for second behind the Devils’ Jack Hughes. Panarin’s line, with Chytil and Lafreniere, has been the team’s most dangerous in five on five.

Tommy D in the house

The Power Play

The unit has been clicking at at 38% clip, which is second in the league, again to the Devils. Adam Fox leads all defenseman with three PP goals and 11 total points. Four of Kreider’s six goals have been on the PP. The Rangers have scored with the extra man in all but one game so far. They got a big PP tally late in the third last night, on a Kreider tip of a Fox shot, to send the game to OT.

The Third D Pair

The Rangers’ third D pair has been a weakness in recent years, with the team unable to come up with a reliable partner for Braden Schneider. It looks like they’ve finally found one, in Laviolette favorite Erik Gustaffson. The third pair is now trusted and is seeing much more playing time than in previous years. This takes some pressure of the top two pairs.

Can he still contribute?

Blocking Shots

As mentioned, the defense looks much improved and the commitment is there. Captain Jacob Trouba and fourth line center Nick Bonino are second and third in the league in blocked shots.

Others

The PK has been strong as well, Will Cuylle is fitting in nicely on the third line, and the fourth line looks like a fourth line should.

Causes for Concern

Blake Wheeler

Wheeler got a video tribute and several nice ovations in returning to Winnipeg last night, where he was captain for seven years. But the veteran wingers has looked slow and doesn’t appear to have much tread left on the tires. It seems likely that star prospect Brennan Otthman might get a look in his spot at some point.

Early MVP

Top Line

We need to see more from the top line at five on five. The combo of Kakko, Zibanejad and Kreider looks good on paper, but the chances have been sporadic.

Slow Start by the Kids

Chytil has gotten some assists with a lot of help from Panarin, but has yet to score a goal. Kaapo Kakko has only one, a tap in from three inches off the goal line. They are going to need production out of these youngsters to take it to the next level.

Advanced Stats

Corsi For” and “Corsi Against” are advanced hockey metrics which are shot attempts made on the opposition’s and your own goal, respectively (this stat includes goals, missed shots, and blocked shots). Shots on goal often doesn’t tell the whole story. The Rangers currently rank 19th and 15th in these metrics, indicating that they have only been average in five on five. The stats look a little better when you look at high danger chances alone, but still not elite.

Final Thoughts

There is really not much to complain about after that historic trip, finishing it off with two OT wins. This looks like at team that is going to be improved on defense and hopefully rely a bit less on Igor. But, they’re still going to be heavily dependent on their special teams units and need some guys to step up for the team to become elite. Metropolitan rivals in the Devils and Hurricanes looked stacked and the undefeated and retooled Bruins are also looking strong.

That’s all folks. Come back tomorrow for Angry Ward.

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About Ben Whitney 396 Articles
Ben Whitney comes from journalistic stock. Aside from his brothers, rumor has that his great-great grandfather was the youngest brother of Eli Whitney and covered the earliest "rounders" games. Big Ben is also another New York Rugby Club player/pal of Different Matt, Short Matt and Junoir Blaber. He likes film noir discussions, has twin girls and took up ice hockey after retiring from rugby.