Rangers looking to maintain intensity beyond the first period

The organizational mantra during Rangers’ rebuild from 2018 through last season was to play harder.

Each NHL team has shaped slightly different styles that make them difficult to contain, and the blueshirts have made great strides in discovering their identity in that regard this season. When they play fast, rely hard on the precheck, and throw in a healthy dose of wrecking ball, Rangers are at their best.

It was on full display in the opening 20 minutes of Rangers’ 4-3 overtime treble loss in Game 1 to the Penguins on Tuesday. Rangers recorded 19 hits, with Ryan Reaves and Alexis Lafreniere leading with four each, compared to the Penguins’ 10.

Reaves was simply a menace on the ice, traveling hit after hit, making the crowd at Madison Square Garden hum in anticipation whenever he got close to his prey. Pittsburgh defenseman John Marino might have needed an ice bath on the first break considering how many punches he’s taken.

Ryan Reaves exits the ice after scoring in the first period of Game 1.
Ryan Reaves exits the ice after scoring in the first period of Game 1.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Tuesday’s first period was one of the most effective 20 minutes the Rangers have put together this entire season.

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“It wasn’t just the scoring, it was a quick game,” head coach Gerard Gallant said Wednesday at the MSG Training Center as Rangers prepared for Game 2 on Thursday night. “The hits are great with Reavo finishing the checks and some big guys finishing their checks against defenders. But it’s not just about that, it’s about playing fast, staying in the offensive zone and getting more play there.

“Once we started letting them go from D to D and across the ice, the game opened up and that’s not how we want to play. We just had to be faster at the forecheck. Hitting helps, but it’s not just about that.”

Though it was a dominant first period, Gallant is right that it can’t just be about the hits. The Rangers lost the lead so quickly, perhaps because they were gassed for consistently and relentlessly finishing their checks and flinging their bodies around.

The Rangers need to find a happy medium. They have to keep up with themselves and spread the physicality over 60 minutes – or longer as they have been taught. This allows the Rangers to conserve their energy and apply it to the other facets of the game that make them successful, such as:

That doesn’t apply to certain Rangers, however, like Reaves, who led the team with eight hits on Tuesday and plays a niche role.

“It will also wear you down to finish every check,” Gallant said. “So I expect Reavo and these guys to play the whole game like this? Yes, I do, because that’s their role and that’s what they do. That’s what they do best. I expect [Artemi] Panarin’s line on this? Not all night, no.

“I like to play fast and aggressive on forechecks, but they won’t be finishing checks all night. They’ll finish some bumps and such, but I don’t expect them to be running around and wasting their energy on finishing checks and big hits. They won’t.” Rangers looking to maintain intensity beyond the first period


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