It’s too early to panic about the New York Rangers preseason performance, but when the real games begin, the schedule is a huge concern.
The New York Rangers haven’t looked very good so far this preseason. Then again, they have yet to field their regular lineup, preferring to give their young prospects a chance to get some NHL level experience. That has to stop.
There is one big reason for the Rangers to give their regulars to play together with only three games left before the opener against Winnipeg. The reason is that the Rangers’ October schedule is just plain bizarre.
They open the season at home on Thursday, October 3 and then play on the road in Ottawa on Saturday, October 5. They then have six days off before hosting Edmonton on Saturday, October 12. They then have four more days off before playing New Jersey on Thursday, October 17. That is too much time between games for the team to get any kind of consistency or rhythm. Especially when the team is like the Rangers with one quarter of the roster consisting of new faces.
By the time they face the Devils on October 17, the Rangers will have played only three games, the fewest games of any team in the NHL. That even includes Chicago and Philadelphia who are starting the season in Europe. Three teams will have played eight times and eight teams will have played seven games. The closest any other team is to New York is Chicago with four games on their schedule.
While the company line will be that this will give the team a lot of time to practice, there is nothing like real game action and with only those three games on the Blueshirts’ schedule, their Metropolitan Division rivals will have a great opportunity to get off to faster starts.
Washington will have played eight games and just behind them are Carolina and Pittsburgh with seven. The Rangers will end their long stretch on inactivity with a road game against the Devils who will have had six games to get their lineup together. The Rangers then have a match against the Capitals in Washington on the next night. Look out.
The New York Rangers were totally dominated in a thorough 4-1 drubbing by the Philadelphia Flyers. To make matters worse, Kevin Hayes trash talked the Rangers before the game and then followed up by scoring.
Ugh. The less we talk about this one the better. The New York Rangers looked like a minor league team in their 4-1 loss to the Flyers. Philadelphia came into the game winless in their first three preseason games so they fielded much of their major league roster and were loaded for bear after a stern talking-to by the coaching staff.
One player who had something to prove was Kevin Hayes and he came through with a nice redirection for a backbreaking goal with only 24 seconds left in the first period. It was his first goal as a Philadelphia Flyer in his first game against the team he played five years for.
Before the game, he criticized the Rangers for getting rid of him and Jimmy Vesey and said of the decision to trade the pair “I’m sure it’ll come back to them. We’ll find out.”
He told reporters that he had no hard feelings about the moves the Rangers made. He said “I don’t know if they’re good steps or bad steps…That’s what [the media] gets to decide. But they’re steps, I guess. I have no hard feelings toward them. I loved my time there. I’m happy with where I’m at right now.”
But he couldn’t resists taking a swipe at them, adding “In New York my longest contract was two years,” he said. “The last three years (I) was trade bait basically every year.”
But it wasn’t just Kevin Hayes who made the Rangers look bad, it was the entire Flyers team. Although the Rangers had Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, Chris Kreider, Vitali Kravtsov and Filip Chytil in the lineup, no one played well. If you needed any proof about how important Artemi Panarin will be to this team, this game was a great indication.
The Flyers dominated in every category. They outshot the Rangers 40-19, won 60% of the faceoffs, outhit the Rangers 25-14 and scored two power play goals. They had numerous odd man rushes and breakaways. It wasn’t pretty.
Coach David Quinn blamed mental fatigue and said that he thought the team played well the first 17 minutes. That may be true, but when the Flyers scored their first goal the Blueshirts just folded. At any rate, Quinn was brutally honest about his team’s performance.
Igor Shesterkin played the entire game and made 36 saves and was constantly under a barrage of shots. After a game like this one, he may be yearning for that elite team he played for in the KHL. He did play very well and was pretty much at the Flyers’ mercy for all four of their goals.
Joe Micheletti was talking as if Shesterkin was playing for a job with the Rangers to start the season which is hard to believe. It would take a total collapse by Alexandar Georgiev for that to happen. Stranger things have occurred.
The only Ranger goal was scored in garbage time by Nick Jones on a nice wrist shot from the slot.
All of the Rangers playing for jobs didn’t do much to help their causes. That included Tim Gettinger, Connor Brickley and Phil DiGuiseppe. Micheal Haley got into his third straight fight. At least Jones scored and Greg McKegg worked hard.
The Jacob Trouba/Brady Skjei tandem needs to get on the same wavelength, but Adam Fox continued to impress with his smart play and passing.
It was shades of last year when they got caught with too many men on the ice eight minutes into the third period. At that point Quinn looked exasperated.
The Rangers have three more games to get their act together before they play for real. They are off until Tuesday when they take on the Islanders at Madison Square Garden.
The schedule is no mystery to anyone associated with the Rangers and it will be up to the coaching staff to have the team prepared. That’s why it is essential that the newly created Mika Zibanejad–Artemi Panarin –Pavel Buchnevich line get some time to play together (they haven’t yet). The new second line of Filip Chytil, Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko hasn’t played in a real game either.
Sure, the coaching staff is trying to see how the third and fourth lines will shake out and there are still jobs to be won, but for the team to click, they need to get these new combinations playing together. At the rate they are going, including the preseason, the PZB line will have played only six games together by the third week of October.
The good news is that the Jacob Trouba–Brady Skjei pairing has been together twice as has the Libor Hajek-Adam Fox duo. The bad news is we still don’t know if those combinations will work.
The schedule-makers at the NHL have certainly not done the Rangers any favors. The schedule gets normal after October 16, but the craziness of playing only three games in 15 days to start the season could be a real problem for the Blueshirts. It’s pretty much guaranteed that the Rangers will have to play catch up very early in the season.