1) Michael Grabner does it again. The speedster picked up two more goals to help lead the Rangers to a 3-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers. He scored his first goal just 80 seconds into the contest, and finished a breakaway in the second period. Grabner now has 10 goals on the season. Had nine in 80 games with Toronto last season.
2) Chris Kreider did not dress due to an upper-body injury, allowing Grabner to move up the lineup and play alongside Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. With several versatile wingers, Alain Vigneault has a ton of flexibility up front, especially when someone doesn’t dress.
3) Pavel Buchnevich took warmups, but was a late scratch due to back spasms. Adam Clendening dressed in his place. The Rangers had 11 Forwards and Seven Defenseman dressed, but Clendening did not see the ice. Many expected him to be in the lineup after AV scratched Dan Girardi in an earlier back-to-back, but that was not the case. The Rangers are in a tough stretch of games, and should utilize their entire roster to keep as many guys fresh as they can.
4) Speaking of Girardi, he did redirect a puck with his foot as he scored his third goal of the season. He leads Rangers defensemen in goals scored, and has registered a point in four of his last seven games.
5) With 11 forwards, Vigneault constantly mixed and matched the forward combinations the entire evening. The Rangers sat back for most of the third period, protecting a two-goal lead, but in the first 40 minutes, you saw their ability to attack once again. After a few sluggish games vs Boston, Winnipeg and most notably Vancouver, New York has turned in two solid performances to open up a four-game road trip.
6) Brady Skjei played his second game on the right side, partnered with Marc Staal. After a lousy training camp, Skjei continues to impress just about everybody. His ability to skate out of trouble is a huge asset, but his puck management, ability to see the open man down the ice has been a tremendous addition to the Rangers blue line.
7) With the emergence of Skjei, Nick Holden and Kevin Klein form the third defensive pairing for the Blueshirts. All of sudden, their defensive depth looks pretty strong. However, Girardi did play on the top pairing next to McDonagh. He has looked better this season, but set the bar extremely low with a terrible 2015-16 campaign.
8) Instead of spot duty, Clendening should be rotated into the lineup more frequently. There is no shame in giving Girardi, Staal, or even Klein the occasional night off. The hockey player’s mentality is to play at all costs, but it’s about time the hockey world caught up to other spots. Ability to play an entire season is critical, and getting a breather here and there would certainly help.
9) Can we say enough about Antti Raanta? The veteran goaltender had 38 saves as he improved to 4-0-0 on the season. He has had an excellent start to the year for New York. It’s imperative Vigneault works him into the lineup on a frequent basis. No reason to overwork Lundqvist at this point of the season. The condensed schedule is certainly a challenge, but the Blueshirts have the personnel to give their older players rest throughout the year.
10) On a night the Rangers were shorthanded, it was bizarre to see two forwards, Oscar Lindberg and Brandon Pirri both play under 10 minutes. Vigneault has repeatedly talked about the condensed schedule, however has shortened the bench in several games.
11) J.T. Miller’s two-way game has really evolved. The coaching staff feels comfortable using him in all situations. His speed, coupled with his determination and grit really help lengthen out New York’s lineup.
12) The other forward who has developed his all-around game is Kevin Hayes. We have spent a lot of time talking about him in the past, but its really incredible that he can be trusted in all three zones. However, he did take an uneccesary offensive zone penalty. Must have been inspired by Benoit Pouliot.
13) Since making a strong impression in his first few games for New York, Mika Zibanejad has cooled off quite a bit. He does have quite a bit of skill, and we expect him to pick it up. Consistency has been an issue for him in the past but his overall numbers have improved year to year.
14) The Rangers will play the Canucks on Tuesday, as they look for revenge after the Canucks handed New York a loss at Madison Square Garden less than a week ago.
15) If both Kreider and Buchnevich are unavailable for the game against Vancouver, the Rangers will likely have to call up a forward. Have to believe Cristoval Nieves could get the first opportunity. Tanner Glass’ contract is too expensive, and if it is a short term fix, why expose Marek Hrivik to waivers again when he eventually has to return to Hartford. Josh Jooris is not cleared for contact yet, so will not be an option.