The New York Rangers are now 1-1-1, and though the record does not paint the whole, but brief picture, the team is still going to need time. Time is a relative term here. With a season that has a hard deadline, the Blueshirts cannot afford to waste time, so instead, they will have to practice patience.
With a new system and fresh approach in place props to Gerard Gallant being in his first season coaching the Rangers, adaptation is not going to happen overnight. Yet two straight losses amidst one close win right when hopes were high can cloud that reality.
Patience is a word that Rangers fanatics are tired of hearing, no matter how anticipatory it is for the season to get off to a rough start. The all too familiar and tireless cycle of the Rangers falling behind early and playing catch up for the rest of the game is a trend that is hopefully about to cease. If anything, the loss to the Dallas Stars proved the team is able to build a response from the previous loss, but the “catch-up” identity is still stuck. At least the Rangers found the right response to topple the Montreal Canadiens.
Rangers Were Not Built in a Day
Though the urge to panic after the first pair of games was very present, the improvement from game one to game two is blatantly obvious. And that is just from the first two regular-season games this group played together. As the cliche goes, the Rangers lost to good teams and they will face much harder groups.
Many aspects of the organization this season are foreign for these players. A fresh coaching staff, a different approach, a new team dynamic. It is inevitably going to take a bit of time to adapt to. Yet last season, the players meshed quickly, the team was more cohesive than others likely anticipated.
Gallant is also still trying to figure it out on his side too. “I like to leave my lines alone but in situations like tonight you try different things. That actually worked out pretty well” Gallant stated in regards to the Dallas loss. Though Gallant owns a successful coaching record, this goes to show that each team will test a new coach’s system (from ‘Rangers showed template for how they can control games’, New York Post, 10/15/2021).
The tactics that worked for Gallant with the Vegas Golden Knights might not apply in New York, just like they perhaps did not with the Florida Panthers or with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The point is, though Gallant was one of the most sought-after head coaches, his coaching approach is not static and he too will have to adjust.
Continuing to build is Gallant’s state of mind at the moment. This is the mentality he and the team will need to persist in. At times in the past, the Rangers looked like they tried to do too much, the club needs to keep it simple. The coach also mentioned his team had chances against the Canadiens to score more on the power play, another area the team will need to focus on.
Alas, it will take time for the new system to settle into place, the offense to find its full spark again, and the new faces to gel with the others. The Rangers looked more like themselves against the Stars but a real test will come tonight as they meet the Toronto Maple Leafs on the road.
The Rangers are already bitten by the injury bug with Kaapo Kakko out. Kakko, who was on the rise, suffers from an unfortunately timed absence. Morgan Barron was recalled as they face a Leafs’ lineup fortified with star Auston Matthews making his return tonight.
Ryan Strome is also out due to COVID protocols. With two big pieces of the Blueshirts out so soon and needing to haul in irregular players, the emphasis on patience only increases.
Focusing on the Positives
As much as the Rangers have working against them, there were some areas of hope thus far. Chris Kreider has three goals in three straight games. He is a player the team relies on and he will need to keep his name seen for the better of the team. His net-front presence is especially crucial for the team, as his skill for tipping the puck has become a very refined skill of his.
Alexis Lafrenière secured the game-winning goal in Montreal. That may just be the boost he needed to get production going this season. With a solid team behind him, the young talent is primed for success this season, and all eyes will be on him.
Igor Shesterkin looks solid in net. He was tested by 65 shots in his last two games and despite his overtime loss to the Stars, looked almost unshakeable. It is unknown how the goaltender rotation will shake out between Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev still.
Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox is playing up to the Norris standard again this season, no surprise there. Get used to him stealing the show every night. Young defender K’Andre Miller still has a penchant for no-hesitation shooting from the blue line. His four shots thus far translated to a goal which Kreider tipped in to get the tying goal on the Stars. Miller also ranks in the upper percentile of shots on net.
The team is no longer shy of laying hits. Thus far, the Rangers registered 82 hits. This is part of the visible grit Gallant mentioned recently. Slowly, the team is becoming harder to play against. It is a long road, but it will be worth it.
Rachel is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. She can be followed on Twitter @RachelNHL.