Fifteen seconds into his first shift and 1:50 into his first NHL game, here came 18-year-old Filip Chytil across the line on left side with the puck on his stick, Mats Zuccarello on his right, and one Avalanche defenseman back … and going down.
“Fifty-fifty to pass or shoot,” Chytil told The Post after Friday’s practice and before the flight to Toronto in advance of Saturday’s match against the Maple Leafs. “On my first shift, maybe I should have tried a shot, I wanted to score a goal on my first shift, that would have been the best feeling, but Mats was open and I made the pass.”
The pass, though, was tipped into the crowd by a kneeling Chris Bigras, and with it went Chytil’s best and only opportunity of the Blueshirts’ 4-2 opening defeat to the Avalanche in which the youngest player to skate for the Rangers since the end of World War II got 11 shifts worth 7:40 of ice time.
“I think if he makes that first play and it clicks, the rest of the game flows a little better,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “Before the game we had shown the team that exact same clip where on two-on-ones they like to go down and slide, so there was an opportunity for an early saucer pass or take it to the net.
“One or the other, shoot or make the play. It’s certainly easier in retrospect.”
Vigneault said he’s considering mixing Chytil into the penalty-killing unit after some more practice work in order to take advantage of his skating and to increase his ice time.
“Playing that first game was a big experience and a good experience,” Chytil said. “It would have been better to win, I would have enjoyed it more, but playing in the NHL was the dream of my childhood.
“I expected the game to be fast but maybe it was faster than I expected. I was watching our centers to try and see what I could learn about playing in the best league and against the best players in the world.
“I’m going to be ready the next game and I’m going to be better,” he said. “I want to get better with every game.”
Vigneault was generally pleased with the performance of the Marc-Staal-Anthony DeAngelo third pair that got the assignment as the second penalty-kill tandem.
I thought they were good,” the coach said. “I thought Marc Staal, in his role on this team, he was physical, his gap was good and he used his partner when available.
Anthony, I saw some real positive things, but I also saw some areas. Saw some other areas to work on. He needs to be tighter when we don’t have the puck, but I also need him to be confident in his instincts and to jump up when it’s time and not back off in those situations.
“It was his first game with his new team and I’m sure he had some [butterflies]. He’ll be better.”
DeAngelo, who played 16:22, said he thought he played, “well for the most part but I know I can be better in certain situations defending in our end and when we don’t have the puck.”
Staal, who played primarily with Nick Holden a year ago after spending the previous two seasons with Dan Boyle and Kevin Klein after having previously partnered with Anton Stralman and before that, Dan Girardi, said that he and DeAngelo are developing “pretty good chemistry.”
“He’s very talented,” Staal said. “He’s smart, he’s eyes-up, we’re talking a lot during practice and between shifts, and I’m looking to be physical and strong on my one-on-ones, so we’ll keep working on it.
The Blueshirts, who face the Canadiens at home on Sunday, have not opened 0-2 since 2012-13, have not lost first three since an 0-4 getaway in 1998-99 and have not gone winless in their first three since 2011-12 (0-1-2).