VANCOUVER CANUCKS @ NEW YORK RANGERS
10:00AM PST MADISON SQUARE GARDENS, NEW YORK, NY
TV: SPORTSNET. RADIO: SN650.
OPPOSITION BLOG: BLUESHIRT BANTER
The Canucks got the goaltending they needed from Thatcher Demko, but a stingy New Jersey Devils defence helped MacKenzie Blackwood look more like Martin Brodeur again as the Canucks got shutout yesterday in a 1-0 loss. The Canucks power play let them down once again, and even (finally) putting Quinn Hughes on the First Unit wasn’t enough to jump start it. They were 0 for 7 yesterday, and believe me when I tell you that the Devils got off light, as the officials let a lot go, particularly when it came to Elias Pettersson, who was hooked, held, tripped, slashed and interfered with all day long. Sunrise, sunset.
To get you caught up on the Rangers, we spoke with Blueshirt Banter’s Tom Urtz. Jr about the Rangers so far this season:
1. Yesterday Canucks fans got their first look at Jack Hughes, today it’s the other prized rookie from last year’s draft, Kaapo Kakko. How’s he making the adjustment to the NHL so far?
Thus far Kaapo Kakko has had a quiet start to the season, and that isn’t really a bad thing. He’s someone who flys a bit under the radar defensively, especially when it comes to forechecking. It doesn’t matter if he’s at the end of a shift or not, he’s constantly hounding whoever has the puck and using his stick to try and make plays. Offensively things will start to turn around once he’s with a center who can get him the puck on a regular basis, and that’s something that Ryan Strome hasn’t been able to do with frequency thus far. Personally, I think Kakko on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Artemiy Panarin could be a lot of fun.
2. The Rangers made a lot of moves over the summer, what’s been the most significant one so far in terms of impact on the team, positive or negative?
The Rangers were aggressive in the offseason, and I would say the biggest one thus far has to be the addition of Artemiy Panarin. It has been a couple of games, damn you funky NHL schedule, but it is easy to see why he’s one of the NHL’s best forwards. Offensively he’s creative whether it be firing a one-timer or setting up a teammate with a great pass, but his stick work is tremendous. It feels like each game there are moments where he forces a turnover or forces an opponent to get rid of the puck quicker than they’d like, and it’s been really impressive to see. New York has certainly had a lot of star power over the years, and Panarin’s overall ability to me represents what the Rangers were hoping to get out of Rick Nash, another underrated player who unfortunately had his game decline due to injuries.
3. Unlike some teams we know (cough), the Rangers have been very aggressive in identifying the need for a rebuild and making the changes. Where do you see them in terms of where they are in the rebuild and what still needs to be done?
It is still very early in the rebuild, and there’s still a lot of work to be done. The defense still is very bad, and I would say the team is at a point where they are trying to run out the clock on some bad contracts, primarily Marc Staal (two years, $5.7 million) and Brendan Smith (two years, $4,35 million). Jacob Trouba has been a welcome addition to the team, and someone who should do the team a lot of good for the foreseeable future. Brady Skjei is someone who has been hot and cold during his young career to date, and this is an important year for him to show that he can be what the team needs once they are a contender. There’s also youngsters like Tony DeAngelo who are looking to show that they can put it all together for more than a season, and Adam Fox who the franchise has big hopes for after acquiring him via Carolina in the offseason. Defense is the biggest need, but a year from now there’s a chance that top prospects such as K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist could be in the picture, and potentially someone like Yegor Rykov who is currently in his rookie season in the AHL.
The team also needs to figure out the rest of their forward group, as they are a very top-heavy group. Mika Zibanejad, Panarin, and Kakko are three pieces who aren’t going anywhere for sure. There’s Pavel Buchnevich who is someone who doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves, and he’s being given a big chance to play on the top line this year. He signed a two-year extension this summer, and it appears to be a “show me” deal so the organization can evaluate if he’s a piece to keep around. Chris Kreider is off to a slow start, and that’s notable as he’s slated to be a UFA this July. He’s been a talented player during his career to date, but always appears to be on the verge of breaking out, but he never fully does. It will be interesting to see what happens with him. You also have youngsters like Brett Howden and Lias Andersson who are works in progress, although at this point both appear to be more likely to be bottom-six players than top-six players, although Howden arguably has been given more of an opportunity than Andersson to this point. Outside of those players, there isn’t much of note on the rest of the roster, as it is a combination of veterans on near-minimum contracts (Micheal Haley, Greg McKegg), older pros like Ryan Strome, and pending free agents like Jesper Fast. In many ways the players of notes are currently in Hartford such as Vitali Kravtsov and Filip Chytil, players the Rangers would like to be top-six contributors when they are contending for the Stanley Cup.Ideally this year the Rangers will learn a lot about their kids this year, and that will give management a better idea of what the team’s overall strengths and weaknesses are. This will lead to some more roster changeover, and ideally, a 2020-21 team that is ready to make the playoffs and win a round or two.
4. Henrik Lundqvist is still a quality goaltender but he’s getting close to the end of his phenomenal career. Is Alexandar Georgiev a lock to take his place, or can you see the Rangers looking either for a trade or someone in the system when Lundqvist is ready to step down?
Alexandar Georgiev is being given an opportunity to show he’s an NHL goaltender, and doing so gives the Rangers options. We will learn a lot more about him this season as the Rangers are looking to balance the playing time of him and Lundqvist more than they did last season. When the time comes for Lundqvist to step down from being the starter I do think that Georgiev certainly will be given a shot to win the starting job. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are currently trying to build up his value and eventually trade him if Igor Shesterkin plays to his potential. Shesterkin’s track record in the KHL was an impressive one, and often times it is overlooked simply because he played for a powerhouse SKA squad. So far Shesterkin has been playing in Hartford, and so far so good. I’d expect the Rangers to call him up at some point this season so that he can get a taste of NHL action, but unless he blows the doors off in Hartford the team will take things slow with him as he’s next in line for the throne.
5. Who is someone we should be keeping an eye on in this game we may not be familiar with?
I am not sure how familiar you are with Buchnevich, but I’d say he’s a player to keep an eye on. If you do have some familiarity with Buchnevich, my second choice is Jesper Fast who has been an unsung player for the Rangers. He’s an amazing defensive forward, but has been able to contribute offensively at a respectable rate for someone who primarily plays bottom-six minutes.
Thanks to Tom for helping us with this, and you can give him a follow on the Twitter machine @TomUrtzJr.
I don’t expect too many changes, though I won’t be shocked to see Adam Gaudette swapped in today. Jacob Markstrom will get the start for the Canucks, though. With this being the 3rd game in 4 nights, it would make sense to get some fresh legs out there, even if it means (*looks around the room slowly first*) bringing in Loui Eriksson. I know, I know. It’s not like anyone thinks it’s the answer, but at some point they will have to play him or send him down, right?
Here’s what we should see, courtesy of nhl.com
10 Panarin - 93 Zibanejad - 20 Kreider
89 Buchnevich - 21 Howden - 24 Kakko
48 Lemieux - 16 Strome - 17 Fast
42 Smith - 28 Andersson - 38 Haley/14 McKegg
18 Staal - 8 Trouba
76 Skjei - 23 Fox
25 Hajek - 77 DeAngelo
9 Miller - 40 Pettersson - 6 Boeser
70 Pearson - 53 Horvat - 17 Leivo
79 Ferland - 20 Sutter - 18 Virtanen
59 Schaller - 83 Beagle - 64 Motte
23 Edler - 57 Myers
43 Hughes - 8 Tanev
4 Benn - 51 Stecher
The Utica Comets are storming out of the gate this season, and last night they laid another serious stomping on an opponent, this time a 7-1 win over the Rochester Americans at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica. It was the big names getting it done for the Comets again last night, as Reid Boucher had a pair (giving him 8 goals on the season), Sven Baertschi notched a goal and two assists, and Nikolay Goldobin scored his first of the season and added his 8th helper of the campaign. They also got goals from Zack MacEwan, Wacey Hamilton and Lukas Jacek. Zane MacIntyre was solid again for the Comets, stopping 45 shots for the victory. And if you want some good news, check out the slap pass here from Olli Juolevi to Boucher. Absolutely beautiful stuff!
Boucher and Goldy now sit 1-2 in league scoring, and you have to think that Goldobin’s done everything the Canucks have asked of him to earn a callup the first time they need to get on the horn to Utica. The Comets have out scored their opponents 29-11 in 5 games this season so far. Next up is the Binghamton Devils at home Friday, then a trip to Hershey on Saturday to take on the Bears.
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN:
From yesterday’s Annihilator speedfest, today we bring you the title track off KONVENT’s debut album ‘Puritan Masochism’. This 4 piece Danish doom machine will be releasing this album in January on Napalm Records, and holy hell this one hits hard! Definitely need to check this one out!