The New York Rangers are almost back in action after having two days of rest following Monday night’s home opening victory. The Blueshirts are currently 2-1-0 to start the season and have seen many ups and downs since the year began. Tomorrow night, the Rangers will be back on home ice once again to take on the Nashville Predators.
The Predators are currently sitting at the bottom of the Central Division with a poor 1-3-0 record. This matchup should present itself as another “easy” contest to start the season, but the Blueshirts must make a few things happen in order to successfully earn the win.
The Rangers’ special teams need to continue their early success
So far this season, the Rangers’ power play has been elite. It currently ranks seventh in the league with a 30% success rate through three games. It has mainly been the Rangers’ first PP unit that is scoring the goals, but the second unit has not looked bad whatsoever.
Although the Predators have a poor record, Nashville still possesses phenomenal defensemen and goaltenders. Both Roman Josi and Ryan McDonagh are top-tier defenders who could easily shut New York’s offense down. Juuse Saros is an elite goalie who finished fourth in Vezina Trophy voting last season.
It’s key that the Blueshirts capitalize on their power play chances and score as many goals as possible to move past Nashville. Chris Kreider is a power play genius with world-class hand-eye coordination. It’d be nice to see him continue his goal-scoring streak as he’s had his best career start to a season with four goals in three games.
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The second line must continue to look like the Rangers’ best
The Rangers haven’t had a single line look bad, but it’s easy to say that the second has been the most effective. Artemi Panarin is playing at over a point per game, and Filip Chytil is a driving force to enter the offensive zone. Both Chytil and Alexis Lafreniere have received criticism for only scoring one point each through three games this season, but even they have looked better when on the ice.
The Rangers’ second line has surprisingly been one of the best defensively. Panarin’s giveaway problem has somehow transformed into him possessing elite takeaway abilities. He’s yet to give away the puck a single time this season, as compared to him having over a giveaway per game with 102 last year.
The second line is also physical, as all three players have not had difficulty grinding along the boards and turning scrappy plays into scoring chances. Panarin is clearly the star of this line, but both Chytil and Lafreniere are still playing important roles that need to be filled. Their success will heavily impact the Rangers’ chances of winning as it has through three games so far.
Playing a disciplined game will be essential for the Rangers
So far this season, the Rangers have taken an abundance of dumb penalties. They currently rank 23rd in penalty minutes with 48 minutes in just three games. To worsen this statistic, the Rangers’ penalty kill has allowed a handful of goals as that aspect of special teams only ranks 20th with a low success rate of just 77.8%.
Heading into this matchup against the Predators, the Blueshirts need to be more disciplined. The Blueshirts must lower the amount of penalties they are taking per game, especially the ones that could easily be avoided. In addition, when penalties are called against New York, the penalty kill needs to be better at stopping opponents on the man advantage.
Although the Rangers have an elite offensive corps that could hopefully outscore any team, it’s best to avoid a shootout and keep the Predators to as few goals as possible.