5 Takeaways from Rangers season opening 3-1 win over Tampa Bay

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Rangers takeaways
New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) skates toward the puck during the second period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
AP Photos

The New York Rangers started the 2022-23 on an excellent note Tuesday night with a 3-1 victory over playoff rival Tampa Bay. 

While the score was deadlocked for most of the contest, the final score wasn’t a full representation of how well New York played. The Blueshirts outshot, outhit, and won more face-offs at an overwhelming rate against the three-time Eastern Conference champions. 

A strong majority of the team dominated on Tuesday, but there were a few that stood out in the win. 

Here are the five biggest takeaways in the Ranges 3-1 win. 

Defense suffocates Tampa Attack

At this time last season, the Rangers’ defense was still a work in progress as they tried to find the right line combinations in front of Igor Shesterkin. 

That wasn’t the case on Tuesday. New York shut down the Lightning during five-on-five hockey and also killed 5/6 penalties called on them. The lone goal for Tampa Bay came on a five-on-three when Barclay Goodrow and K’Andre Miller were each called for penalties. 

Igor Shesterking, the reigning Vezina winner certainly helped with an excellent performance, but giving up just 27 shots throughout a game is a very good start for the Blueshirt defense. 

Special teams were special

The Rangers went just 1/4 on the powerplay Tuesday, but each time they got a man advantage, the top powerplay group dominated and harassed Andrei Vasilevskiy throughout the contest. 

In the first two periods alone, the Rangers totaled over 10 shots on net on the powerplay. Mika Zibanejad’s powerplay goal in the third period was also the deciding factor in the win. 

“They’ve been together. The only new guy is Trocheck on the unit and he knows where he is playing. They complement each other.” head coach Gerard Gallant said after the game.

It wasn’t just the powerplay. The penalty-kill unit scored once and never let Tampa’s torrid offense get situated when they had a man advantage. 

New York’s powerplay was fourth in the NHL last season at 25.2% and started strong yet again. 

Face-off brilliance

New York dominated in every facet, including a surprising face-off game that was dead last in the NHL last season. The 2021-22 team won just 44% of the face-offs they saw last season. With the additions of Vincent Trocheck and Ryan Carpenter, that quickly changed Tuesday. 

At one point leading the face-off battle at an 80-20 clip, New York finished the contest with a 63.8% face-off win percentage. It was the fifth-highest percentage for the Rangers since the 2018-19 season and the highest since December 15th of last year at Arizona. 

Carpenter lead the way with a 75% winning percentage and helped control the puck for New York’s third goal of the game to Barclay Goodrow. 

If New York gets production like that in the face-off circle for the remainder of the year, there will be few teams in the NHL who can stop them. 

Kids grow up

Gerard Gallant made the point that the young players “played like men tonight.”

He wasn’t wrong. Filip Chytil won 75% of his face-off battles, Alexis Lafreniere showed his ability to play on any line when Vitali Kravtsov left the game early with an upper-body injury, and Kaapo Kakko dominated on the top line. 

It’s also worth noting Braden Schneider and Zac Jones both were quiet on the defensive end with a combined three blocked shots and two takeaways. 

It was hard to see any faults coming from the young players that the Rangers threw out there on Tuesday. 

Igor shines in the presence of The King

Henrik Lundqvist set the Madison Square Garden crowd into an absolute frenzy Tuesday night with his appearance on the jumbotron. 

“The King” had a front-row seat to see the new dominant goaltender that the Rangers currently house. Igor Shesterkin gave up a tough goal on a five-on-three in the second period but was otherwise a brick wall throughout Tuesday’s finish. 

Shesterkin finished the night with 26 saves out of 27 shots, blanketed the Lightning on multiple scoring chances, and showed once again why he was deserving of the Vezina trophy last year. Almost any other goaltender would falter against an offense like Tampa’s in a game like that but Igor was brilliant. 

He just makes it that much harder to find ways to win against this Rangers team. 

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