The start to this season for the New York Rangers has been anything but smooth. The team jumped out to a quick 2-0 record, before proceeding to lose their next five games.
A good win last week against a hot Buffalo Sabres squad was immediately followed by a dud against the Boston Bruins. That takes us to the next game against a struggling Tampa Bay Lightning team.
After Mika Zibanejad suffered a neck injury as a result of a hit from the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron, the Rangers went ahead called up the young and talented Filip Chytil. After playing with the Rangers all of last season, he was sent to the minors after a poor training camp.
He lit it up for the Rangers’ affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, with nine points in nine game. The team also decided to call up left-handed defenseman Ryan Lindgren from Hartford, playing him over Marc Staal who received the first healthy scratch of his career.
Committing to the Rangers’ Youth
After making these moves, the Rangers battled the Lightning at home and thoroughly outplayed them, coming away with a 4-1 victory. Chytil scored the game winner and Lindgren had an assist. Rookies Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox also had goals, Fox’s first of his career.
Today, the Rangers head south to play the Nashville Predators and they’ll be using the same lineup. It seems like head coach David Quinn has finally gotten the message regarding his usage of young players. Rather than have Chytil play third line minutes and play Lindgren over perhaps Libor Hajek, he slotted Chytil into the top-six and sat down an aging Staal.
These are the lineup decisions we need to see. Veterans are helpful in creating an efficient transition to youngsters, but the players who are developing need those big minutes. One-third of the Rangers’ lineup against Tampa Bay was age 21 or younger and they came out faster and more intense.
It is this kind of development and confidence that needs to be instilled into the youth, and that happens with minutes. So today, on the heels of a dominant win against the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners, they’ll roll with the same lineup.
Zibanejad remains out nursing the same injury, but Chytil would undoubtedly remain in the lineup somewhere if Zibanejad was playing. Staal will sit again while tough-guy Lindgren will play his second game of the season.
Quinn Needs to Find the Right Combinations
The name of the game is consistency. Quinn has been altering the lineup almost every game, which is fine, but to an extent. One game isn’t always enough to see if a group will play well together. In addition, any traction that the players may be getting is instantly wiped away when they get moved around the lineup.
Quinn has done a decent job leading this rebuild so far, but it is time to place a little more emphasis on the young kids and keep the lineups mostly the same until they absolutely need to be changed.
Chytil has been fantastic in the minors and was one of the best players on the ice against the Lightning. He is not going anywhere. And Lindgren? Don’t be surprised if Staal starts seeing considerably less time. This is what truly committing to the rebuild would look like.
Oh, and I am forgetting a name. Alexendar Georgiev should be named the Rangers’ new starting goaltender. Henrik Lundqvist is a Hall-of-Famer, one of the greatest players and goalies to ever play the sport of hockey. But in his late 30s and obviously slowing down, he is no longer the best goalie on the Rangers.
It may be time for Quinn to inform Hank that he should give up the throne. Georgiev has been excellent for the Rangers given their inexperience on defense and tendency to give up prime scoring opportunities.
These changes that have been made must remain. The roster seems to be clicking a little more and it is with some younger players. We will have to see how they come out on the road against a very good Predators team, but I have high hopes.
At the end of the day, the Rangers are slowly starting to put things together it looks like, albeit not in a very pretty manner. But, as has been the case since the Rangers announced a rebuild over a year and a half ago, just let the kids play.