Hockey is back and the preseason is in full swing. With around a week until the start of the regular season, each NHL team is using these uncounted games to the fullest.
Going into the 2019-20 season, there isn’t another team that needs to use this preseason more than the New York Rangers. With a lot of new additions, the chemistry needs to be established and the brand new players need to acclimate to the pace of the NHL. In the first four games of the preseason, the Rangers have not shown a whole lot of positive, but there is no need to panic.
This is the preseason, after all. These games don’t count, but they are massively important for younger players to make an impact and to get used to the pace of NHL play.
The Rangers have not gotten off to a great start this preseason with a 1-3 record in the first four games. Granted, the majority of what the finished and final roster could be hasn’t played together just yet.
In a nailbiter, the first matchup against the New Jersey Devils on Sept. 18 did not disappoint. The Rangers fell short, 4-3, but the connection between Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad was established. To go with that, Kappo Kakko wowed fans with an impressive display of skill for an 18-year-old kid. The whole game was fun to watch, but the result wasn’t a positive one.
After a strong first showing, the Rangers fell off the wagon with their alternate roster that was highlighted by Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil, and Henrik Lundqvist. They faced off against the Devils once more and again found themselves on the losing end, 4-2. The 2019 first-overall pick, Jack Hughes, shined with a breakaway goal on Lundqvist and the Rangers weren’t able to pick themselves back up.
In the third preseason game, the Rangers found a new opponent in the Philadelphia Flyers and former Rangers’ center Kevin Hayes. Keeping with the trend, the Rangers had their worst game of the preseason thus far, losing 4-1 and being outshot 40-19. The roster on display wasn’t a close replica of what opening night will look like.
Finally, in the fourth of six games, the Rangers pulled out a win against the New York Islanders. The projected regular season first line of Panarin, Zibanejad, and Buchnevich really shined in their first game together. The Rangers first preseason win, 3-1, over the Islanders had all of the vibes of a regular-season game.
The Final Roster Isn’t Set Yet
With a plethora of prospects fighting for their chance to crack the opening night roster, the lineup sheets haven’t reflected a full, NHL-ready roster. The lines have been shuffled around to try and find what works and what doesn’t work. With each game that passes, cuts will be made and the line combinations will start to take shape. The final game against the New York Islanders on Sept. 28 will have a more complete roster.
A lot of these younger players are playing with brand new teammates, in a brand new system, and in a brand new league. Kakko, along with Vitali Kravtsov, Adam Fox and Igor Shesterkin are seeing a completely new game in the NHL. It will take time and experience to get acclimated to the new pace of play.
This will look like a completely different team once the final roster is determined and the games count. Additionally, chemistry will be building with each regular-season game.
They Will Improve
The team will improve with each game. Win or lose, the experience will rack up and that is the best thing that the Rangers can hope for. The experience acquired with each game will help develop the young players as the season rolls along.
There is absolutely no need to panic right now if you are a Rangers supporter. Things can’t be any worse than what was seen over the past two seasons, and the only real direction from here is up.
If this was the regular season and the Rangers were off to a 1-3 start, then the panic button should be considered. But, it is still the preseason and it is a time for trial and error. Each game gets us closer to seeing the finished product, but we will all have to wait until Oct. 3 for that.
I cover the New York Rangers. I graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism.