The New York Rangers are finally set to play in their home opener tomorrow night against the Arizona Coyotes. The Rangers are currently 1-1-0, with a win against Buffalo and a loss against Columbus. The Coyotes are another team that is projected to miss the playoffs, but the Blueshirts recently learned that even the weaker teams can be formidable opponents.
If everyone plays well, the Rangers should realistically surpass the Coyotes with ease. But after a disappointing defeat to the Blue Jackets, there are some changes that need to be made in order to maximize the Blueshirts’ chances of securing their second win of the year.
1. Kakko needs to get something started after two scoreless games to start the season
So far throughout this season, the Rangers’ top is has played well. Chris Kreider is currently the Rangers’ leading goal and point scorer with three goals and one assist in just two games played. Every member of the top two offensive lines has recorded a point– except for Kaapo Kakko.
Kakko has been given the chance to play on the Rangers’ first line. He’s slotted next to Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, two of the best offensive producers so far this year. The Blueshirts are now heading into their third game of the season, and Kakko has done little to make the most of this opportunity.
In both games played so far this season, Kakko has amassed zero points. He’s looked solid in both appearances, but no points have been collected. This home opener is the perfect chance for Kakko to get on the scoresheet in front of the fans at Madison Square Garden. If confidence has been a factor holding him back, those fears should be eliminated at home. Having Kakko begin his breakout will be a major help in propelling the Rangers over Arizona.
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2. Lindgren must aim to return to the lineup and bring the Rangers’ defense back up to par
Ryan Lindgren was ruled out of the second game of the season last night, but it’s hopeful that he could make a return for the home opener tomorrow. Head coach Peter Laviolette has labeled Lindgren as day-to-day, giving him the chance to possibly be back in the lineup relatively quickly.
Lindgren is one of the most underrated defensemen on the Rangers, and his absence was noticeable against Columbus. The Rangers’ defense looked abysmal last night, and their poor play can not continue against Arizona. The amount of odd-man rushes created by bad positioning was unacceptable. Laviolette has made note of the flaws exposed by Columbus, giving hope that they will be fixed in the home opener.
“It always hurts when you don’t have a player of that caliber,” Fox said. “But we were prepped, we knew from the morning. It was something we were prepared for. You lose a good player, it’s going to hurt you. The D, we’re comfortable playing with each other.”Adam Fox via Mollie Walker of NY Post
The Rangers must use home ice to their advantage with a rough schedule ahead of them
The Rangers will only have five home appearances in their first 18 games to start the 2023-24 season. Their schedule will get easier and more home-filled after this rough stretch, but there will be an abundance of road games before they get there.
Hockey is a sport where home-ice advantage has a major effect on a team’s performance. With so few home games early on in the season for the Rangers, the Blueshirts must take advantage of every opportunity available to play in front of their fans. Tomorrow night’s matchup is the home opener, giving the first chance to see the Rangers perform at MSG.
Last season, the Rangers actually played slightly better on the road than they did at home. With 82 games split evenly between home and away, the Rangers had a home record of 23-13-5, and an improved away record of 24-9-8. It’s a statistic that is too close to make any judgments about it, but it’s still interesting to note. Hopefully, the Rangers will be able to start this season’s home record with a solid one in the win column.