The New York Rangers got the 2016-17 season started on a positive note with a 5-3 win over the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden. Perhaps the best part of the victory were the positive signs the team showed in the game.
The Rangers were disappointed by last season's first-round playoff exit, so GM Jeff Gorton set out to make his team faster, younger and more cap friendly during the offseason. Many of the players Gorton added over the summer paid dividends against the Islanders on Thursday night.
Newcomer Michael Grabner, a player who relies on speed, scored the Rangers first goal of the season by getting himself in position to poke home a rebound. Grabner looked comfortable on the fourth line and the former 34-goal scorer gives the Rangers a dangerous presence on the 4th line.
Mike Zibanejad, acquired in the summer trade for Derek Brassard, had two assists while Brandon Pirri scored once and set up another goal in slightly less than 11:00 of ice time. Rookie Pavel Buchnevich also got on the scoresheet with an assist.
Some familiar faces also contributed and that has to make Alain Vigneault feel good. Mats Zuccarello, last year's leading scorer, potted his first goal of the season.
More importantly, Chris Kreider, a player who many scouts feel has the potential to take his game to another level, scored the go-ahead goal, added an assist and led all players with seven shots on goal. If Kreider can replicate that kind of performance consistently, the Rangers will benefit immensely.
On defense, the Rangers were counting on bounce back seasons from veterans Dan Girardi and Marc Staal both of whom finished the game with even plus/minus rankings and were at least steady in their play.
The power play was also clicked, scoring once and managing 12 shots on goal in five chances with the extra attacker. The Rangers attack was so efficient on the power play that Isles coach Jack Capuano called it one of the big differences in the game.
Yes, the NHL season is a marathon not a sprint and this was just one game. To be true Stanley Cup contenders, the Rangers need these kinds of performances for more than just one night, but consistently over the course of the 82-game season.
The season opener was just one game, but the early signs were certainly encouraging for the Rangers and their fans.
Notes From NEW YORK RANGERS PR DEPARTMENT: On 3 Stars of the Game:
Chris Kreider tallied two points (one goal, one assist) and tied a single-game career-high with seven shots on goal in tonight’scontest. He has registered 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 16 career games against the Islanders. Dating back to last season, Kreider has tallied 11 points (six goals, five assists) in his last nine regular season games.
- Brandon Pirri tallied two points (one goal, one assist), including his first goal/assist/point as a Ranger and recorded the game-winning goal while making his Rangers debut in tonight’s game. Entering this season, Pirri ranked 12th in the NHL (min. 100 games played) in goals per 60 minutes of ice time since the start of the 2013-14 season (1.31).
- Mika Zibanejad notched two assists, including his first assist/point as a Ranger, led all skaters with 15 faceoff wins (15-for-25; 60.0%), and tied for the game-high with two takeaways while making his Rangers debut. Zibanejad has tallied a point in six of his last seven contests against the Islanders, recording seven points (one goal, six assists) over the span.