If last night’s game was any indication of the Rangers offensive depth, the team is in for a very good campaign offensively in 2015-2016. The Rangers stars on the top line last night were not very noticeable throughout the game and may have just been the most ineffective line last night.
Rick Nash had a few quality scoring chances, but altogether the line did not generate a lot of offense against Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson. The task is a lot easier said than done, and especially against a team like the Chicago Blackhawks. The team’s second line centered by Derek Stepan was descent and was able to generate a goal off a rush when Kevin Hayes instinctively centered the puck from the corner to the crease area.
With all the Hawks defenders focusing on Hayes and Kreider behind the net, the third forward in on the forecheck was Derek Stepan who tapped the puck into the empty net to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead that they would not relinquish. The story of the night for me was the Rangers bottom six forwards and their high level of play.
Oscar Lindberg in his second NHL game played an extremely good hockey game. He was awarded the teams’ Broadway Hat which goes to the best player on a particular night. Lindberg did not shy away physically in the corners, displayed great skill and hockey sense and showed the ability to finish plays. It was an interesting sequence on his first tally of the season and his career.
Viktor Stalberg skated the puck with speed through the neutral zone before sending a simple backhand pass to JT after gaining the zone. Stalberg then drove hard to the front of the net to create space for his wingers to operate on the play.
Miller tried to pass the puck over to Lindberg, but the pass was cut off by Trevor van Riemsdyk in the slot area. Miller retrieved the puck and sent a quick pass over to Lindberg at the bottom of the right circle and Lindberg one-timed it top shelf over the glove of Corey Crawford.
The goal was huge for the Rangers and really set the tone for the rest of the game and quieted the crowd. The Rangers took advantage of a slow start by Chicago following their banner raising ceremony before the game, which took a lot longer than usual.
Lindberg finished the night with one goal, a plus two rating, three shots on goal and was 66.7% on faceoffs. The 23-year-old made an instant impact and definitely looked like he belonged out there. Lindberg centered the third line along with fellow Swede Viktor Stalberg (who won the Stanley Cup in 2013 with the Hawks) and American JT Miller.
Fourth Line Creates
Despite not appearing on the score sheet last night, the Rangers fourth line were on their game. Jarrett Stoll centered Dominic Moore and Jesper fast and the trio worked the boards exceptionally well.
The group was cycling the puck and finding each other for scoring chances on several occasions last night. A play that stands out to me was an odd man rush where Fast sent a pass to Stoll at the top of the right circle in the Hawks zone, Stoll sent a tape-to-tape pass to Dominic Moore who was driving hard to the net. Corey Crawford made the stop, but it was a great play by a group of players that are still learning each other’s tendencies.
Everyone knows that to win a Stanley Cup today you have to roll four lines, the Rangers appear to have that luxury this year.