The Arizona Coyotes may be without a win, but how sweet it still is to pick up a much needed two points in the standings for the Rangers as the team cruised to a smooth 5-2 win over their Western Conference visitors at Madison Square Garden Thursday night.
For maybe the first time this season, it seemed the Rangers had a real jolt of energy in the first period as they not only scored the first goal, but added another to boot to come away with a 2-0 lead after the first period — the first time this season the team has gone up by two goals in the first period.
Coach Alain Vigneault has been harping to the press that his team has been getting scoring chances, but not finishing on them, but that story changed tonight as the Rangers broke through Arizona’s rookie backup goaltender four times while adding an empty-netter at the tail end of play.
While some could argue that playing the 0-8-1 Arizona Coyotes with their backup goaltender, Adin Hill, in action is not so impressive, the Rangers ultimately did what they were supposed to do.
Hill made 23 saves on 27 shots against, and though he seemed like a fish out of water at some points — note the Michael Grabner third goal of the game; the Pavel Buchnevich fourth goal of the game — the hit against his GAA is certainly not helped by the lackluster play of his defense in front of him as the Rangers piled on high-quality scoring chances against the young goaltender.
Ondrej Pavelec on the other hand got the start in net for the Rangers and offered the team some much-needed stability. The veteran Czech goaltender generally stopped what he should while adding in a few slightly more impressive saves as well.
Boo Nieves was perhaps the biggest stand-out and surprise of this contest as he logged three assists and contributed significantly in maintaining offensive pressure especially when he was paired with Buchnevich as both seemed to find quick chemistry with the other. Nieves will give Vigneault more options with the lines going forward and add some comfort to the forward depth of the team.
The Rangers simply beat a bad team Thursday night, but did so in decisive-enough fashion that Rangers fans can deservedly walk away happy for the ‘W’. However, this does little to help determine exactly what this team is capable of.
The offensive success in this game from players like Pavel Buchnevich (2 goals), Michael Grabner (2 goals), and Chris Kreider (1 goal) can spring these players to get their games back together and play to their potential.
Buchnevich and Kreider especially are undoubtedly critical in determining exactly how good this group can be, and this offensive outburst can help them build confidence going into the upcoming contest against Montreal Saturday.