The Rangers couldn’t have opened the season in a worse way unless the team announced a multi-year contract for Tanner Glass sometime between taking one of their eight of penalties and allowing one of Anders Lee’s two goals. The Rangers lost to the Islanders 4-0 in their first regular-season game in 10 months and a day, looking like the team that opened last season and not the team that won 16 of 22 games at this time a year ago.
Here are 10 thoughts on the Rangers.
1. Yes, it was one game and the smallest of sample sizes, but that’s all we have right now: one game. After waiting for Rangers hockey from mid-March until early August and getting only three games of it, and then waiting against from early August until mid-January, and then to be treated to that type of effort, it was frustrating. I understand the Rangers are a young team and would have greatly benefited from a full training camp and preseason games, but there’s no excuse for Thursday night’s performance in which they were dominated in every facet of the game by their rival.
2. The Rangers trailed after only two minutes and 33 seconds following a Brock Nelson power-play goal that came as a result of a lazy, unnecessary Jack Johnson penalty. Johnson has been the ire of nearly all Rangers fans since the team inexplicably signed him and he had the worst game imaginable. After finally shedding Marc Staal’s ill-advised contact and being done with the two-headed monster of the Staal and Dan Girardi contracts, the Rangers went and signed another defenseman they had no reason to sign in Johnson. Johnson’s deal is only for this season, but every night he’s in the lineup is a chance someone with an actual future with the Rangers doesn’t have of gaining valuable playing time and experience. After Johnson’s painful Rangers debut, I don’t think we’ll be seeing him in the lineup on Saturday against the Islanders.
3. The Islanders took the lead after the Nelson goal and essentially ended the game one minute and 19 seconds later on a Lee goal. The chance of overcoming a two-goal deficit against a non-Islanders team isn’t awful, against the defensive-minded Islanders under Barry Trotz there’s a better chance of Ryan Strome scoring a goal without Artemi Panarin’s help. I should have put Lee on the 2020-21 NHL All-Animosity Team, but I already had captain Matthew Barzal and Andy Greene (a holdover from last year’s team). Three Islanders on a six-person team felt like way too much, though I’m now upset with myself for not including him. Lee added a second goal (the Islanders’ fourth) in the second period to rub it in my face some more.
4. If Rangers fans were still thinking of a comeback down 2-0, Matthew Barzal ended that idea. Barzal is so good. So, so good. His goal at 13:31 of the first period to give the Islanders a 3-0 lead was … well, silly. That’s the best way I can describe it. His inside-out move against Tony DeAngelo was a thing of beauty, only to be one-upped by his quick release and snipe over the shoulder of Igor Shesterkin. It’s the kind of goal only a handful (OK maybe two handfuls of players in the league can pull off), and Barzal did it so effortlessly it appeared easy. All Rangers fans should be thankful Panarin turned down more money from the Islanders to be a Ranger, or the Rangers would be dealing with Barzal and Panarin for a long, long time. Dealing with Barzal alone is enough.
5. Not only was DeAngelo undressed by Barzal for the Islanders’ third goal, proving to once again be a dangerous liability defensively, but his second-period hissy fit after getting called for a penalty led to a four-minute power play for the Islanders. I was ready for the Rangers to move on from DeAngelo, and wish they had, and the season opener served as a reminder.
6. The Rangers did to two things well in the game: fail to create scoring chances and take penalties. If the objective of the game were to produce as few high-quality scoring chances as possible and play shorthanded for the most possible time, the Rangers would be 1-0 this season. It was a miserable game and I really have no idea why I sat through the entirety of it. I guess I just missed hockey so badly I was willing to sit through a rout at the hands of the Islanders. Pretty sad, really.
7. I’m not sure you can say anyone on the Rangers played well. Adam Fox looked the best, and I don’t care that he gave up some opportunities to shoot for an extra pass, that’s who he is. Even Fox didn’t look like his total self. He was the best Rangers player only because everyone else was so ineffective.
8. It was a sad sight to see Alexis Lafrenière serving a penalty for too many men on the ice. That’s not a position any No. 1 overall pick should ever be in: serving a bench minor. Maybe fans of other teams would disagree, but no team takes penalties for too many men on the ice like the Rangers. It seems to happen every few games for them when it should rarely, if ever, happen. The sloppiest display from a team is getting called for too many men, so it was perfect that the Rangers got called for it in that game.
9. It might have been only one loss, but in a 56-game season, it’s the equivalent of a 1.5 losses. Losses can’t be stacked in this season. Three- and four-game losing streaks can’t happen. If they do, you can kiss the playoffs goodbye. The Rangers need to average about 1.20 points per game this season and have two of the Islanders, Capitals, Flyers, Penguins and Bruins miss the playoffs (and that’s assuming the Sabres and Devils will miss the playoffs). After one game, they have zero points, and if they are to win on Saturday, they will have two, which is under the 2.40 they will have needed through two games. The margin of error is going to be so thin for the four postseason berths in the East. Overall performances like the Rangers’ on Thursday can only happen a few times over the course of the regular season, and they already used one up in one game.
10. In other words, the Rangers have to figure out and figure it out fast. They will play essentially every other night for the next nearly four months, and there are no nights off as part of the deepest division of the four realigned divisions in the league. By the time I write next Friday’s Rangers thoughts, they will have played three total games and be looking at a two-game weekend series against the Penguins. Every game this season is a big game, and in their only game this season, they were as bad as they could have possibly been.
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