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Hartnett: Takeaways From Rangers Preseason Opener

Sean Hartnett
September 18, 2018 - 2:51 pm
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First-year head coach David Quinn has inherited a Rangers roster largely comprised of raw, youthful talents. The current crop of Blueshirts are being guided by a head coach whose previous NHL coaching experience was a single season spent as a Colorado Avalanche assistant during the 2012-13 season.

There’s inevitably going to be learning experiences for both Quinn and his young roster. The former Boston University bench boss is undergoing the earliest steps of programming the Rangers to play his way. Throughout the preseason, he has pointed to a need for the Rangers to play “in the opposition's faces and make them uncomfortable every shift.”

If there’s a message for Rangers fans after preseason Game 1, it’s this: Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Rangers are a work in progress. There were some positives and some negatives shown by the Blueshirts in Monday’s 4-3 overtime victory over the rival Devils at Prudential Center.

THE GOOD

-Pavel Buchnevich displayed excellent vision throughout the night, including a clever feed on Neal Pionk’s overtime winner. The 23-year-old wing notched a goal of his own when he blasted a slap shot past Keith Kinkaid following Kevin Hayes’ face-off win. He also recorded a team-best three hits.

- Lias Andersson looked very much like an NHL player. The 19-year-old center scored twice, including a shorthanded goal that he made by intercepting a Taylor Hall pass and finishing top shelf. His awareness, positioning and two-way aptitude remind me of a young Dominic Moore.

- Tony DeAngelo recorded four shots on goal and showed off well-executed stretch passes. Quinn wants the Rangers to play with pace. DeAngelo’s explosive skating, ability to excel in transition and offense-generating instincts match Quinn’s leanings. Quinn likes puck-moving defensemen who can enter the zone with speed. DeAngelo fits that mold. He just needs to prove his consistency and stamp out his defensive deficiencies.

-The Rangers looked sharp on the penalty kill. Andersson, Hayes and Chris Kreider made some particularly sound plays while shorthanded. Hayes also won 10 of 19 draws and picked up two power play assists.

- In addition to scoring the game-winner, Pionk led the Rangers with 23:13 TOI. The 23-year-old defenseman looks like he added some muscle in the offseason and impressed on both ends of the ice.

MORE: Harnett: Would Be A Shame If McQuaid Trade Leads To DeAngelo's Departure 

THINGS TO IMPROVE

- The Rangers were unable to match the split-squad Devils’ energy in the first period and were outshot 11-5 in the opening frame.

- Lapses in coverage and an inability to defend the net-front area were frequent issues during Alain Vigneault’s final three seasons behind the Rangers’ bench. On Monday, the Devils capitalized on the Rangers leaving the low slot unguarded. Quinn has pledged to reshape the Blueshirts into a team “that's built around defense.” Improving net-front defending will be high on his preseason checklist.

-The Rangers handed the Devils seven power play opportunities, allowing New Jersey to cash-in twice on the man advantage. Although the officials called a tight game and the Devils committed six penalties of their own, the Rangers need to be far more disciplined. DeAngelo was whistled for an avoidable interference penalty in the third period that led to Nick Lappin’s second goal of the night. There’s five more preseason games left to ensure this doesn’t become a trend heading into the regular season.

The Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday. As the preseason rolls on, we’ll get a clearer idea of how well the Rangers are adjusting to Quinn’s style.

Follow Sean on Twitter -- @HartnettHockey