The New York Rangers have come out of the gate strong (3-0-0), and their best assets have been their speed, their physical play, and goaltending. Rangers’ Head Coach Alain Vigneault saw his team suffer slow starts through his first two years with the club; but the team has learned from their past, and picked up their game to start this campaign. To me the most encouraging sign about this team has been that they are rolling four lines that are all on the same page, and when they do make mistakes, Henrik Lundqvist is their to clean up the mess.
One thing that has jumped out to me to start the year, is the heavy style that the Rangers have played. They usually pressure the puck hard, but they have been finishing every check and it seems to be having a positive effect on the club. The team after three games has thrown 101 hits, which is good for second in the NHL. New comer Jarret Stoll has led the way thus far with 10, and not far behind him with six hits is Viktor Stalberg, who was also a free-agent pickup over the off-season . A big part of adding these guys was the fact that they do have bigger frames, and playing them seems to have given the Rangers a bit of pop around the line-up. Not only is the team throwing hits, but they are doing a good job on the wall as well by tying guys up and winning puck battles. The heavy play tells me that this team has a chip on its’ shoulder, and so far it has kept the opposition off-balance.
Red Hot Rookie
Oscar Lindberg has exploded to start the year for this team as he has four goals in his first three games; which has secured him the NHL’s second star of the week. I’ve been impressed with how well-rounded Lindberg is; he’s only 23-years-old, but he plays center like a veteran. He looked strong through the pre-season, but he has stepped his game up with improved battle level, and confidence with the puck. If you look at his goals it’s a result of him knowing where to be on the ice and being willing to get to the net. Of course there is no way he continues scoring at this rate, but you have to feel good for a guy whose gotten off to such a terrific start to his career.
Holding the Fort
Lundqvist has been outstanding through the first three games of the season, and Saturday night against the Blue Jackets he made some eye-popping saves. Lundqvist has always been a focused competitor, and I have to say he just seems hungry in the net right now. He’s doing a great job of seeing through traffic and his reflexes have been superb, but the true statement has been some of the wacky saves he’s made; one was a Dominic Hasek style pad stack, and the other he came diving out of the net to get a stick on Ryan Johansen.
What this says to me is that he understands just how important every game is, and is determined to set an example by working hard on every play. In the past two years, number 30 wasn’t his best to start the season, and the club sort of sagged around him; when he is on his game and making the big saves it seems to give the team a shot of energy. Lundqvist is always a pivotal part of this team, but when he plays like this, the Rangers reach another level. To this point, Lundqvist has been the best player on the club.
Everyone knew that the Rangers would be a team that relied on their quick transition to have success; but I myself thought that it might take some time for this team to find their legs and get everyone in sync. Instead the team has stormed into the season with a bull-headed approach to play a fast and physical brand of hockey. This adjustment has made them a scarier team, because they can now play in any type of game, and wear the opponent down in different ways. The club is bigger than they have been in the past and they seem determined to utilize that advantage. The solid start shows that the team has been preparing well; that being said 79 games are still sitting on the schedule waiting to be played.