Three games into an 82-game season is way too early to get overly concerned about results, even if the three games played have all been losses. David Quinn’s team will win a game, eventually, and maybe even two or three in a row, at some point.
So this is no time to overreact. Quinn is clearly still trying to figure a few things out about his team, which would explain all the changes the coach has made early on, searching for a mix that works. After the first game, he scratched forward Vlad Namestnikov because he wasn’t pleased with his play. Late in the second game, he benched Kevin Hayes and Pavel Buchnevich, then in the third game, he put Namestnikov back in and dressed defenseman Anthony DeAngelo for his first game of the season.
Hayes, by the way, played well in that third game, the 8-5 loss Sunday to Carolina, and Buchnevich – dropped to the second line, with Hayes and Jimmy Vesey – scored a power play goal that gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead. Namestnikov, who had an assist, played well enough that Quinn said he tried to get him a few extra shifts here and there. And DeAngelo had two assists in the game.
“Tony (DeAngelo) played well,’’ Quinn said. “I thought Tony did a good job for his first game, and he had a good training camp, you know. I liked his game.’’
DeAngelo, who turns 23 on Oct. 24, was good enough to deserve to keep a spot in the lineup. But in order to get him into the lineup Sunday, Quinn chose to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen, rather than the more common 12 and six. Most coaches are loath to do that, but Quinn wanted to get DeAngelo into the lineup, and he reasoned that the six defensemen who had played the first two games had played well enough to keep their spots. So, after much consideration, he opted for 11 and 7.
“When you make these decisions, it’s 51-49 a lot of the time,’’ Quinn said. “You think of everything, and you talk through it all. And ultimately, when you do make these decisions, it’s not a slam dunk (decision) by any sense of the imagination.’’
If Quinn does keep DeAngelo in the lineup, and if he decides to go back to a 12 and 6 alignment, that would mean a fourth different lineup for the fourth game of the season. That’s a lot of change, to be sure. But Quinn is still trying to learn about his roster, and he’s got to keep playing around until he finds a group, and combinations, that he feels good about. That will take some time. It’s OK. It’s still early.