Encouraging start for the Peter Laviolette era in New York and the Wild have their goalie
Checking in with Friday's stroll around the NHL.
Happy Friday. Here’s what’s ahead Today and this weekend.
Uh oh, the New York Rangers might have a coach.
The Minnesota net should not be a platoon this season.
Maybe it wasn’t the system, Ivan Provorov.
Sid and Ovi still got it
The Peter Laviolette era is off to a strong start for the Rangers
There has been no team in the NHL over the past two or three years that has baffled me more than the New York Rangers.
When you look at their roster it is pretty clear the bones of a good team, and maybe even a championship team, are there.
They have stars at every level of the ice. They have a goalie that is, at worst, the second-or third-best goalie in the world (and maybe the best depending on the day). They have a couple of top-two draft picks that they expect to be stars.
But even with their relative success over the past couple of years the team has never really been impressive when you watch them play. They are not always great during 5-on-5 play, and in continuing with Rangers tradition they have been unable to develop their young forward talent and seem to be determined to win games by simply asking their goalie to stop 40 shots every night.
They also had a head coach over the past two years in Gerard Gallant whose main coaching techniques seemed to center around “play harder” and “hit somebody.”
I know that is oversimplifying it, but that is the vibe that team gave off and the way it seemed to play out on the ice. Something big was missing.
The Rangers’ big move this offseason after losing in the first round was to dump Gallant and bring in Peter Laviolette to set a new direction behind the bench. Normally I would roll my eyes at an NHL team going with a retread like Laviolette that has burned out in five other cities, but Laviolette does at least have a track record of some success and might be able to bring in the type of system the Rangers need to maximize their talent.
With the obvious acknowledgement that it is only one game, there were a lot of things about their 5-1 win over Buffalo on Thursday night that stood out as overwhelmingly positive developments.
For one, the Rangers actually looked like a Stanley Cup contender in the way they played. There seemed to be a plan and a system in place, and the results were clear. They finished the game with an incredible 68 percent share of the expected goals during 5-on-5 play, and did so against what should be a pretty good Buffalo team. Just to put that number in perspective, the Rangers only had four games all of last season where their expected goal share was higher than 68 percent. Those games were against the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Flyers and Islanders …. three of the worst teams in the league, and one (the Islanders) that routinely bleeds chances against.
They only had nine such games in Gallant’s entire two-year tenure.
Controlling the pace of the game and significantly outchancing their opponent is not something we have been accustomed to seeing from this Rangers team.
I also liked that he planted the top picks — Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko — on the team’s top-two lines and just simply rolled with them. Gallant never seemed interested in allowing these two to develop and would constantly have them on a short leash, ready to bury them down the lineup at the first sign of struggle. That clearly did not happen here because by all accounts Lafreniere had a dreadful training camp and preseason showing, but Laviolette still gave him some trust let him start off in the top-six.
The result: Scoring the first goal of the season.
For the Rangers’ rebuild to work it is imperative that these two guys become top-line players. It is a must. It has to happen. Their ceiling as a team is severely limited if they are simply “okay” or turn out to be busts. At some point you just have to turn them loose and see what they can do.
It was never going to happen under Gallant.
Maybe it will under Laviolette.
It is only one game, but it is the type of game the Rangers have not played much over the past two seasons.
The Minnesota net belongs to Filip Gustavsson
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