The Rangers are not exactly off to the start they may have envisioned. New York opened the season on the right foot Thursday night in St. Louis with a solid all around win against the Blues by a score of 3-2. The Blueshirts were good offensively with a solid forecheck for most of the night, and were tight defensively against a tough opponent in the Blues. But any positive vibes that may have been going around following the win were quickly shot down as the news of Dan Boyle’s broken hand came to light.
Boyle, the 38 year-old veteran defenseman who was brought to New York over the offseason by and large to quarterback the power play, broke his hand during the Rangers season opener in St. Louis. Mats Zuccarello was then forced to miss Sunday night’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs after he took a hard hit Saturday night in Columbus, which appeared to injure his shoulder. These injuries have of course come on top of first line center Derek Stepan’s broken fibula, which occurred during a non-contact drill during the Rangers training camp. While Zuccarello is technically day-to-day, Stepan and Boyle’s injuries are both longer term.
This has opened up the door for the young kids to step up and show just what they’re made of, however it’s also made Alain Vigneaults’ job that much harder, and is exposing the Rangers’ depth issues both up front and on defense.
During this two game skid for New York, they’ve been outscored 11-5, and Henrik Lundqvist was pulled during the 2nd period of Sunday night’s game against Toronto after allowing 6 goals on just 24 shots. And yet despite two tough losses and a whole host of injuries, not all of the news coming out of New York has been bad.
The Rangers may be off to a 1-2-0 start, but things have been going pretty well for big Rick Nash. Nash, who has come under some harsh criticism for his production, or lack thereof, during the Rangers’ playoff appearances in recent years, is off to quite the start in this new season.
Because all of the injuries the Rangers have been dealing with, Vigneault’s been forced to make some changes and shuffle some lines around, and one of the changes he made was to place 39-year-old Martin St. Louis at center, between Chris Kreider and Rick Nash. At first glance this seemed like an odd move on the part of Vigneault, seeing as the veteran St. Louis had always played right-wing, but it’s appeared that you maybe can teach an old dog new tricks after all. Despite some early struggles in the faceoff circle, St. Louis has seemingly found his stride at Center, and the chemistry that’s developed between he, Nash, and Kreider has been electric, and benefited Nash in a big way.
In the season opener at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, the St. Louis, Kreider, Nash line combined for all three of the Rangers’ goals, with Nash scoring two and Kreider the other. On Saturday night, Nash lit the lamp again in Columbus, and did it a fourth time during the first period of Sunday night’s matchup at the Garden off of a perfect feed from Martin St. Louis during the Rangers’ home opener against Toronto.
And despite losses in two of those three games, it’s become clear to anyone watching that Rick Nash is a man on a mission. The forward who last spring registered just three goals in 25 playoff games for New York has come out flying, scoring four times in the first three games of this still very new campaign. Rick Nash seems poised to put the naysayers to rest, and so far he’s done just that. As if his resurgence on the ice hasn’t been something for Rick to smile about yet, the fact that he’s just become a father probably is.
While the Rangers were battling it out on the ice against the Leafs on Sunday, Nash’s wife Jessica went into labor. Nash did not play in the third period of the game against Toronto so he could go be with his wife, and as Larry Brooks of the New York Post tweeted Monday afternoon, Jessica has officially given birth to the couple’s first child, and it’s a boy.
It’s a boy for Jessica and Rick Nash!
— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) October 13, 2014
Things in Rangerstown may not be going exactly as many had hoped, or even expected, but the news hasn’t been all bad. On the ice Rick Nash is healthy, skating north to south, and finding the back of the net with apparent ease, and off the ice he’s just become a father. That’s all certainly been a shining light in what could develop into a difficult stretch ahead for the New York Rangers, as they try to regain their health and depth here in the early going of the season.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.