The New York Rangers defeated the New York Islanders by a score of 4–2 in the second pre-season exhibition game of the year. It was an overall solid performance by the Rangers, a team that featured mainly regular NHL players despite a few prospects. Following the conclusion of the matchup, there are a handful of positive takeaways as the Rangers inch closer to opening night in just a few weeks.
Laviolette’s new system is bringing fresh energy to the Rangers
The first preseason game of the year ended with a few positive takeaways for the Rangers. The Blueshirts were outskated, outshot, and outscored. However, the Rangers seemed to enter this matchup against the Islanders with a new style of play.
The first period began with a blazing hot start as Kaapo Kakko scored only 15 seconds into the game. Tyler Pitlick and Chris Kreider scored shortly after, giving the Rangers an early 3-0 lead over the Islanders.
This quick start with not only goal scoring, but speed, energy, and consistency is a style of hockey that newly hired HC Peter Laviolette has been implementing throughout training camp. Even though there was little meaning behind this game, the Rangers still looked to be in peak form from start to finish.
Laviolette’s hiring was questioned upon its immediate announcement, as there was concern that he would be too similar to Gerard Gallant. However, Laviolette has been praised by the Blueshirts’ players ever since they began to hit the ice. Game one proved that the system isn’t perfect, but tonight showed that when it works, it works amazingly.
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Offseason acquisitions are fitting in right away
When the 2023 offseason concluded and GM Chris Drury had only brought in a handful of fourth-liners and an aging winger, there was much criticism about the acquisitions the Rangers had made throughout the summer. However, a handful of the new guys already hopped on the score sheet to contribute to the Blueshirts.
Tyler Pitlick, a bottom-six player who is fighting for a fourth-line role, scored a goal just over a minute into the game. It was assisted by Erik Gustafsson, another veteran defenseman eyeing the spot alongside Braden Schneider. Blake Wheeler then scored his first pre-season goal as a Ranger just five minutes into the second period, proving that he can still contribute at an old age.
Seeing the offseason acquisitions already begin to produce in their first games is a great sign for the Blueshirts. Heading into the offseason, the Rangers knew they had Stanley Cup-winning potential, there were just a few minor holes in their lineup. With the new players seamlessly fitting into an already successful lineup, this bodes well for the Blueshirts’ upcoming campaign.
The Rangers vs. Islanders rivalry is as hot as ever
The Rangers seemed to bring an unforeseen level of physicality to tonight’s matchup against the Islanders. Having been bitter rivals for decades, it was expected that this would not be an entirely clean game, however, the hits began to be thrown earlier than expected.
The brutality began early on in the first period when Rangers’ top prospect Brennan Othmann flattened Sebastian Aho, causing a scrum that led to off-setting penalties. Following that, there was a constant level of aggression between the two rivals that did not seem to settle down throughout the game.
The Rangers will face off against the Islanders four times in the regular season this year, one of which will be the 2024 NHL Stadium Series. This rivalry will be sure to heat up as the season progresses, especially with the initial drama that ensues tonight.