Beth Boyle Machlan is a contributor at BlueShirtBanter.com. You can follow her on Twitter @BethMachlan.
The Rangers had an awful start to the season, but have now won six in a row. What’s been the change?
The change? Moving Pavel Buchnevich from the 4th line to the 1st, for one. Alain Vigneault’s distrust of the young Russian has been inexplicable from the start, and culminated in benching him for Tanner Glass in last year’s playoffs. Since moving to the 1st line, Buchnevich has been on fire, and has already outscored his previous season. Also, the power play, which has been a black hole for the Rangers for years, has come to life with the combination of Kevin Shattenkirk, Mika Zibanejad, and the aforementioned BUCH. And Rick Nash, who I still consider the Unluckiest Man in Hockey for how often he shoots/makes things happen vs. how often he scores, has finally heated up as well.
Is Henrik Lundqvist done?
Lundqvist isn’t done. Lundqvist is 35 and has faced more high-danger shots than any other tender in the NHL. He’s been shot full of holes for three seasons now, and I’m guessing his knees and body reflect that. But he’s always been a slow starter, and he’s come on as fierce as ever in the last six games, and that save percentage is creeping up.
Mika Zibanejad is averaging a point-per-game after a somewhat disappointing debut season on Broadway last year. We see the three shots per game, what’s been the difference in his game so far?
Alain Vigneault likes to tinker with his lines, and I think Zibanejad’s game suffered last year as a result. (The broken leg didn’t help.) This year, he’s healthy and he’s playing with monsters, Buchnevich and Kreider, (KZB) who had a crazy chemistry even in 2016 preseason, but then never played together again. He’s been a beast on the power play, on a PP1 team that right now looks like it could score blindfolded.
Kevin Shattenkirk was the big offseason signing. How has he settled in?
Shattenkirk had a great start, then fell off a bit as AV played with his pairings (and defensive deployment continues to be the NYR’s Achilles heel — don’t get me started). But he seems to have found his groove, turned the PP around, and is playing his game regardless of who he’s paired with. He generates offense like crazy; NYR zone exits used to be embarrassing, but I find myself not even thinking about that anymore, especially when 22 is out there. But the dream pair of Shatty and McDonagh is history already, and he’s with Nick Holden. Ask AV.
The Rangers pulled themselves out of their initial hole, but some of their analytics are still not very impressive and this is a weird roster. Where are they headed this year?
Where are they headed? Three weeks ago, I would have said the basement. But if Lundqvist holds up, the Cup. You heard me. Because No Cup for Lundqvist is a world I refuse to live in. (We’re going to get Beth the help she needs. Don’t worry. -ED)