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Game 4: NYR-PIT, Rangers head out on road for first time this season

January 21, 2021, 10:31 PM ET [398 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers, after two days off, play Friday against the Penguins. This will be the first road trip for the Blueshirts, after playing the first three games at MSG. After seeing the COVID spikes, New York needs to make sure that the protocols are followed to a T to enable the road trip to hopefully go off without a hitch. Oh, and in case you missed it, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella benched Pierre-Luc Dubois for the second and third period Thursday, due to PLD's lack of effort and poor play. This clearly is a situation to watch, as the focus gets ratcheted up a bit.

The line shuffle continued again today and likely will be in place tomorrow:

Forwards
Lafreniere-Zibanejad-Kreider
Panarin–Strome–Buchnevich
PDG –Chytil–Kakko
Lemieux –Howden –Rooney

Extras: Blackwell, Gauthier

Coach David Quinn is shuffling the deck again in an attempt to jumpstart a few players. I understand the rationale, but also wish that he would allow some chemistry to try and build. Granted, it is a sprint, since 56 games, and we can't wait forever, but four games in and multiple line changes may not be the answer.

The system requires better gap control and away from the puck play to limit chances. Transitions from D to O quickly and smoothly, recognizing patterns is keys. But that also requires chemistry, which wasn't built due to the lack of exhibition games and incorporation of additional youth. Yes, the coaches are to blame as well, since the point of camp was to help embed the system, though that has not yet been the case.

Lafreniere gets moved up to the big boys with Kreider shifting sides. Laf is close to breaking through, playing with Zib should hopefully facilitate that with Kreider adjusting to the offside. Buch slides down to hopefully jumpstart Panarin and Strome, who have lacked chemistry since the pandemic hit and really, the last several games before the break occurred. The third line rightly remains together, as they were brilliant and the best trip the other night.

Based on practice, I am projecting Rooney in for Gauthier. If you listen to what Quinn said post-practice, sure seemed like this change was occurring, as Gauthier is still figuring out how to play in the league. Gauthier was shifted from the third to the fourth line and now, likely the bench. Rooney does bring a physical presence, can be used on the PK and wins draws at a semi-reasonable clip, so I get playing him. But eventually, the kid needs to be given a full chance, but only if he deserves it, and his play the last two games was meh.



Defense
Lindgren–Fox
Miller–Trouba
Johnson–DeAngelo

Extras: Bitetto, Hajek, Smith

Those pairings look familiar. Oh right, Game 1. Fox is back with Lindgren, while Miller gets another chance with Trouba, who didn't have a good game Tuesday.  We all know why JJ is in the lineup, but Smith deserves to be the one paired with ADA. I discussed this yesterday and my view hasn't changed, though that will do little to modify the situation. Igor Shesterkin will be back between the pipes.

Power play:
PP1: Fox, Panarin, Strome, Zibanejad and Kreider
PP2: ADA, Trouba, Buchnevich, Lafreniere and Chytil

Fox, who manned the top PP while DeAngelo sat, remains on the top unit. His play warranted that call. While the PP went 3-for-14, they did have lots of good looks, hitting the post a few times, though with 4RH and one lefty, it is unbalanced.

Per Vince Mercogliano, "Quinn has mentioned the possibility of replacing Strome with Buchnevich to add a second left-handed shooter to the unit, but Strome appears locked in for at least one more game. Kakko also worked in the second PP during practice, rotating with Trouba. Adding Kakko gives PP2 four left-handed shooters, with DeAngelo the only righty."
Kreider can take draws, which is another reason why swapping Strome for Buchnevich makes sense, if faceoffs were a concern. Kakko is a big body as well, so playing him on the second unit makes sense. I wouldn't be shocked if Lemieux continues to play as he did the other night, if he gets a shot on that grouping as well.

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