The Sabres (soaring high) and Rangers (stumbling and bumbling) were heading in very different directions heading into Thursday’s game, so maybe a special moment like Artemi Panarin‘s opening goal was necessary.
While Rasmus Dahlin is wet-behind-the-ears as a 19-year-old NHL sophomore, it still felt like a rare moment to see Panarin snag a puck from him and score an absolute beauty, with Carter Hutton‘s pokecheck attempt being rendered feeble. (You can watch that sweet play in the video above this post’s headline.)
When you consider the final score being 6-2 in the Rangers’ favor, you’d think that Panarin carried over that fabulous individual effort into a dominant night. He certainly was useful, finishing Thursday with a +4 rating, but the Rangers won thanks to a group effort.
Ryan Strome scored two goals, Brett Howden netted a goal and an assist, and Tony DeAngelo managed a goal and an assist of his own. Between DeAngelo and Adam Fox, the Rangers seem to have potential options on the right side beyond big-money addition Jacob Trouba:
Here are a few other observations from that game:
- Again, this was big for the Rangers, and maybe a learning opportunity for the surging Sabres. New York won for the first time since beginning the season with two victories, ending a five-game losing streak to end the night with a 3-4-1 record. The Sabres suffered just their third loss (and only their second in regulation), putting a three-game winning streak to an end, and slipping to 8-2-1 in 2019-20.
- One of the only bummers for the Rangers was that Kaapo Kakko didn’t have the greatest night in his look on the first line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. That line didn’t have promising possession numbers via Natural Stat Trick’s linemate summaries, and that checks out in simpler terms with Kakko ending Thursday with a -2 rating.
- That said, the Rangers could be pretty dangerous if Zibanejad and Panarin can both carry their own dangerous lines, particularly if Strome and other depth guys can pitch in often enough.
- This marked Kakko’s eighth game. Should the Rangers at least consider not burning a year off of his entry-level contract? There are greater sins than not yet being ready for Broadway production at 18, particularly when you remember that Kakko is likely still adjusting to North American ice and the culture shock of going from Finland to New York City.
- The Sabres had the edge in puck possession and shots on goal (33-24), but the Rangers managed an 8-5 edge in high-danger chances at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick. You can see the concentration of goals in the hard-to-reach places in front of Buffalo’s net in this Heat Map:
The Rangers face a serious challenge in living up to a splashy season of offseason moves. It remains to be seen if they can pull that off, but chances are, they will be very entertaining on a lot of nights. For the Sabres, it’s crucial to shake this one off.