Rangers Thoughts Presented by Vintage Ice Hockey: Preseason Proved Meaningless

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The West Coast and Western Canada are typically an issue for the Rangers. But not the Peter Laviolette Rangers. The Rangers remain undefeated on their road trip to both locations.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Rangers.

1. Igor Shesterkin stole two points for the Rangers in Calgary and his strong bounceback performance coming off being pulled against Nashville made it seem like he would get the start in Edmonton. He didn’t. Peter Laviolette opted to give Jonathan Quick his second start of the season as a result of his strong play in Seattle, his Western Conference familiarity and his success against the Oilers.

“Things like that always factor into it,” Laviolette said. “His career numbers vs. Edmonton are really good. He’s coming off a pretty good performance as well.”

Quick rewarded his head coach’s decision with a 29-save shutout and the Rangers beat the Oilers 3-0.

“I’m very glad that we have him on our team,” Braden Schneider said of the Rangers backup.

For all of the preseason discussion about Quick being washed up and unfit to be the Rangers backup, his play through three games and two starts is the latest reminder that preseason play is meaningless. Quick stopped every shot he faced from the Oilers, including several high-quality, dangerous chances in the first period, and has allowed one goal in 145:52 this season. His .982 save percentage is silly.

2. The Rangers continued their winning ways on their season-long, five-game road trip to the West Coast and Western Canada, remaining undefeated through three games. After winning 4-1 in Seattle on Saturday and 3-1 in Calgary on Tuesday, their 3-0 win in Edmonton on Thursday has them atop the Met. If not for Stuart Skinner’s play in goal for the Oilers, the game could have easily been 6-0 or even 7-0 with the amount of odd-man rushes the Rangers had.

“I thought we could have had three more,” Laviolette said.”

3. If you had told me through the first seven games of the season that Mika Zibanejad and Filip Chytil would have zero goals, I would have followed it up by asking you how many losses the Rangers have. The two top-six centers being held scoreless through the first two-plus weeks of the season and the Rangers having a 5-2 record is a testament to how deep and well rounded this roster is. And also how good the power play has been.

4. With seven power play goals in seven games, the Rangers have converted 30 percent of their man-advantages. Adam Fox’s power-play goal in Edmonton to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead was the team’s first non-net-front power-play goal of the season. The Oilers’ likely pre-planned approach to tighten their box on the penalty kill around the slot and front of the net to prevent Chris Kreider deflections led to Fox being able to quietly find a place alone at the left hash mark for his eventual goal. The Rangers’ ability to change and shift their formation on the mid-power play has made it hard for the opposition to defend and is a major reason why they currently have the sixth-best power play in the league.

5. Midway through the second, Schneider scored his first of the season with a beautiful snipe from the middle of the ice to make it 2-0, and near the end of the second, Alexis Lafreniere scored for the third consecutive game.

While Quick endured his share of criticism in preseason, Lafreniere was right there in terms of drawing the ire of Rangers fans who put any stock into preseason with his play in late September.

Here is what I wrote about Lafreniere after the Rangers’ win over the Flames on Tuesday.

Lafreniere is currently on pace for a 41-goal season. It’s unlikely he will keep that pace up, but for a player who has averaged .20 goals per game in his 216-game career, the early-season total is exciting. League history has endless examples of high first-round picks who found their game for good in their fourth season, and you don’t have to look any farther than Zibanejad for comparison. Zibanejad was the sixth overall pick in 2011, and it wasn’t until his fourth season in the league when he put together his first 20-goal campaign after a 16-goal campaign in his third season. Lafreniere’s third-season goal total? 16.

Well, that 41-goal pace is now up to a 47-goal pace after Lafreniere scored his fourth goal of the season to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead.

6. “He seems confident to me,” Laviolette said. “He seems like he’s having fun.”

Confidence seemed to be an issue for Lafreniere in his first three seasons in the league. David Quinn and Gerard Gallant were always quick to punish him with playing time, demote him in the lineup or even outright scratch him, never being able to properly utilize or get the most out of the former No. 1 pick. It’s been the complete opposite under Laviolette, who rightfully included Lafreniere in the top six from the moment he arrived, and has let him play on the opposite wing of Artemi Panarin in every game this season.

7. “Every night that line is in the positive in a lot of different ways,” Lavioelte said, “and certainly on the scoreboard is a big one.”

It was another ho-hum, two-point night for both Fox and Panarin, who assisted on the Fox and Lafreniere goals. The two assists extended Panarin’s every-game-of-the-season point streak. The Lafreniere-Chytil-Panarin line continues to impress

“When they’re moving, they’re really dangerous,” Laviolette said. “They read off of each other well. I think there’s a good mix of different types of player in there. They were on point tonight. They had a really strong game.”

8. Overall, it was a good, but not complete game from the Rangers. They had trouble finishing (as Laviolette said), and they relied on Quick to get them through the first period. Through seven games, the Rangers have had a tendency in most first periods to come out sluggish and essentially weather the storm until the first intermission. It’s usually after an 18-minute trip to the locker room when they begin to play their game and take over. The Rangers have been outscored 6-5 in the first period this season, but have outscored the opposition 16-7 in the second and third periods. On this road trip, they have outscored the Kraken, Flames and Oilers 8-0 in the second period. All three of their goals in Edmonton came in the second.

9. Will Cuylle nearly had his second goal of the season after the puck deflected in off his right skate. It was called a goal on the ice, but after review it was overturned for a kicking motion, an idea that remains the grayest of gray areas. Despite only one point (a goal) in seven games, Cuylle has played well, and his linemate Blake Wheeler finally played well too on Thursday. Wheeler played his bet game of the season, and his head coach commented, “He was really noticeable all night … He could have had two or three goals.”

10. Outside of a letdown performance in Columbus and a complete no-show against Nashville, the Rangers have played extremely well this season. The fear of falling behind early in the standings as the team learns a new system under a new head coach has been put to rest.

There are two games left on the road trip (Vancouver on Saturday and Winnipeg on Monday),and thankfully just one more late-night start (Vancouver). It’s impossible not to feel good about the state of the Rangers through seven games, and if they can do the unthinkable and pull off a five-game sweep of the West Coast and Western Canada, it will be impossible not to feel great about them.

Vintage Ice Hockey is the only company that sells premium-quality jerseysapparel and team merchandise for defunct minor league hockey franchises. It’s a family-run, hockey fan-driven company that’s committed to celebrating and preserving the legacies of defunct minor league hockey franchises. Check out their collection spanning over 100 years of minor league hockey and use code KTTC for 15% off your order!