Nine thoughts after 11 Rangers games:
1. Big, huge, giant asterisk on Game 11 — a 5-2 Garden win Thursday — because the opponent was the winless Desert Dogs of Glendale. The only way you take that result seriously is if Arizona comes out of The Garden with its first win of the season. It’s a game the Rangers had to win, and they did, and really it would have been difficult to lose.
2. That said, a win is a win, points are points. But as we’ve heard so many Rangers say during difficult stretches over the last several years, it only really matters if they follow it up and build on it. The Rangers had a tiny bit of mojo going after getting points in three straight, even if only the last one was a win, then followed that with the loss against San Jose. They seemed really bothered by that, and they should have been.
3. So they head to Montreal Saturday – to play a team having a worse start than the Rangers – where the Habs will be feeling the pressure to not lose to a 3-6-2 Rangers team. Imagine. The Rangers need to force the issue there, use that, play a solid road game and let the Canadiens’ fragile psyche be their friend. Then the Rangers get the unbeatable Vegas Knights at home. Let’s see what the Rangers have got. By the way, from what I’ve heard (I don’t read French) the fans up there, with the Canadiens’ start, make Rangers fans sound calm and cool.
4. Boo and Buch and such … The decision to bring up Boo Nieves for his second NHL game, strongly recommended by Chris Drury, and to send down Adam Cracknell and Tony DeAngelo, isn’t an earth-shattering transaction. Not the kind that pulls teams out of deep doldrums.
5. But, having 12 forwards is such a big key for the Rangers. Having Nieves – or any 12th forward they can trust – allows the Rangers to roll four lines and play at the high tempo with which they’ve had their success under coach Alain Vigneault. That’s how they scored those piles of goals in the first half of last season. And they sure need goals to cover up for some defensive lapses.
6. As with the result of the game, we’ll take the offensive stats with grains of salt because they came against the third-string goalie on the worst team in the league currently. But we saw Pavel Buchnevich’s high-end skill once again with a pair of goals, even if the first goal is probably stopped by an NHL goalie, and that line with Nieves (three assists) and Michael Grabner (two assists) was fast, relentless and effective. Buchnevich’s minutes should go up in a four-line game.
7. Nice to see Derek Stepan back at The Garden, even if he had a game he’d like to forget – one of his several turnovers resulted in the magical Mats Zuccarello pass for the Chris Kreider dunk early in the game. Nice to see Rick Nash play his 1,000th game, too. Nash has been easily one of the Rangers’ best forwards, but – we’ve said this before, and so has he — he needs to start getting on the score sheet.
8. The other “Pav.” With the Rangers’ former successful backup goalie (Antti Raanta) now a Coyote, albeit injured, their new backup goalie got his first win as a Ranger. Again, grain of salt or asterisk or whatever, but Ondrej Pavelec made some big stops behind a team that could not afford – psychologically – to give up easy goals in that game. At some point, the Rangers are going to need Pavelec to step in and win important games. This was the first step.
9. My friend Peter Botte of The Daily News came up with a note yesterday when Joe Girardi parted ways with the Yankees after 10 seasons. That move made Vigneault the most senior coach/manager in the Metropolitan area, having started in 2013. AV is followed by, in order of service: 2. Todd Bowles (Jets), 3. John Hynes (Devils), 4. Ben McAdoo (Giants), 5. Kenny Atkinson (Nets), 6. Jeff Hornacek (Knicks), 7. Doug Weight (Islanders), 8. Mickey Callaway (Mets) and 9. presumably, the next Yankees manager. I like the Mets new manager, by the way, because he has the first name of my boyhood idol and the last name of my driver.