The New York Rangers came into tonight's matchup off a long break and with a shorter roster. They faced the Calgary Flames, set to be arguably the worst team in the NHL. An offense highlighted by Curtis Glencross and Matt Stajan managed to put four pucks in the net, which is not indicative of good defense. The Rangers, meanwhile, scraped together one goal against a goaltender who hasn't played an NHL game since 2009.
Of course, it's the pre-season. The results don't matter. What does matter, however, is execution and productivity. With a new coaching staff and, thus, system in place there are going to be some bumps in the road even once the regular season starts. So of course the team is not going to be firing on all cylinders right now. Nonetheless, I come away a bit frustrated and disappointed with tonight's showing The roster has been reduced from where it once was. Guys who were in training camp for the sake of the experience itself are, for the most part, long gone. Play time is over. The players who made this road trip are mostly guys who are competing for roster spots, and the 19 guys on the ice tonight collaborated for a poor showing. Keep reading for some of my observations.
Henrik Lundqvist: It looked like 2009 again. With him receiving no help in front of him. The scoreline is unfair to Hank, who was phenomenal tonight. The shorten leg pads have given no reason for concern, as he is still a black hole for low shots. I'm sure he could write a 10-page thesis on every little thing he should have done better tonight but he was the best player in a Rangers uniform tonight, as is the case often.
Kreider-Richards-Nash: The complete opposite of John Tortorella's philosophy, which was to change lines every other game, would be to stick with the same combinations well after it becomes obvious that what's been tried won't work. That's not to say that Vigneault has done that in this case because we haven't played so much as a single meaningful period yet. That being said, this line has shown virtually nothing through two games. Nash has had a few quality opportunities, but those were generated thanks to his own individual efforts. Chemistry isn't built overnight. But this line is going to have to show something soon or else Vigneault will be forced to try something else.
John Moore: Another strong game from Moore. Moore was given nearly 21 minutes, and that could have been higher if he didn't sit for fighting Curtis Glencross. Moore's skating was noticeable as usual and he made an effort to get deep in the offensive zone and try to generate some offense. Three shots, three blocked shots and three hits.
Marc Staal: I think (hope) we have reached the point where we no longer have to worry about Staal's eye in terms of general life consequences and can evaluate his play itself and how it might be affecting him. He looked pretty natural once again tonight, making plays in both ends of the ice. Staal scored the sole goal for the Rangers, and on the powerplay no less, by crashing the net and collecting on a puck received from Fast. With the new coaching staff and the stinking pile of garbage that was last season's powerplay, it's a wide open competition for powerplay roles. Staal has shown flashes of ability with the man advantage in the past and could flourish if given an opportunity.
Stu Bickel: Speaking of defensemen who have played well tonight, Stu Bickel was not one of them. Bickel's first game of the pre-season was not very encouraging but he had a complete meltdown tonight. Two penalties which the PK bailed him out of, with the second one being and embarrassing display of defense, as he let Matt Stajan beat him on the inside, forcing him to hook him to prevent a prime scoring opportunity. I am not one to encourage scapegoats or pile on a player for fun, but Stu Bickel has shown absolutely nothing that suggests he belongs at the NHL level. We had fun in 2012, Stu. Unfortunately, we're two seasons passed that now. It's just not working out anymore.
Jesper Fast: Oscar Lindberg came into the pre-season in the pole position to be the prospect that makes it this year. Fast, however, might just be closing that gap. He was one of the best Rangers forwards tonight - not saying much, but still - and assisted on Marc Staal's goal. The comparison is convenient and possibly stereotypical - Fast and Hagelin are both in the Rangers organization and both Swedish - but the similarities between the two are uncanny. Fast has that combination of speed and tenacity that Hagelin has. Not so much in a physical sense, but with his body positioning and stick work. He doesn't give up on plays. He's willing to dig for pucks behind the net. He looks to make life difficult for the opposition in their own zone when they have the puck. He's responsible defensively. It won't hurt Fast if the Rangers decide to give him some time to develop in Hartford, but he's earned himself a long look, at the very least.
Danny Kristo: After a strong Traverse City showing, Kristo looked like a guy who wasn't ready for the NHL in his first pre-season game. Did he prove himself worthy tonight? Not surely. He did look much more comfortable, however. Whereas he looked a bit passive against the Devils, Kristo looked much more confident and went at defenders with the puck on his stick, looking to make plays. He led the team with four shots. No matter what choices Vigneault and the coaching staff make there is going to be a prospect or two who will get the short end of the stick and get sent down despite a strong campaign. Kristo is among the handful of young guys who are making the decisions difficult, and that's only a good thing.
The Rangers have a chance for immediate redemption tomorrow, though certainly with many different players, as they take on the Oilers in Edmonton.
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John Moore is great.When he pounded Curtis Glencross I couldn't help thinking about Ranger justice for Glencross's blindside hit of Chris Drury, finally.
Jesper Fast seems to be finding his game, and that's very good for the Rangers.
Chris Krieder seems to be on the same page as he was last year. RIchards maybe too, he didn't shine particularly.
I'm more concerned about the ineffective play of Nash and Richards. Kreider is the go to guy on that line and both Richards and Nash not able to get the puck to him. Vig tried other wingers with Nash and Richards with no better results. Rest of lines is Vig just evaluating. The guys fighting for the 7th and 8th defenseman jobs have been underwhelming. Both Falk and Bickel very underwhelming. Vig trying different guys tonight sans McIlrath who will probably sent to Hartford on the next cut. Good that Vig is giving Kreider a chance on another line tonight.
@TheNYRBlog not happy with Nash too many turnovers
@TheNYRBlog I wish Richards could always be Richards circa 2012 playoffs vs. Caps. I really liked that guy.
Yeah Slats, this team doesn't need Stepan at all. He's not worth a fair bridge contract.
Only caught the first 2 periods, but am I the only one who was underwhelmed by Richards?? I thought he had something to prove. I know it's still pre-season but if not now when? Dude isn't worth his pocketbook.
Moore looked amazing. The 4th line looked good below the hash marks as well. I was impressed with Calgary, they played an impressive up tempo couple periods. If they're "arguably the worst team in the NHL", what does that say about us??
Cally. Hags. Steps. Can't get them back soon enough.
Before you jump off the bridge already lol, just remember they haven't played with a full squad. And these kids have by far been their most impressive players.. Oh yea and Staal looks sharp...
Just watching so far this season I can say we are in for more of the same from last season.. Coaching change will not make a difference IMO. Been watching this team since '79. The league has moved to high speed, high energy players. When all these kids don't make the team and we are back to Richards and Nash and Boyle we will see the same lack of offense. I was all for the Nash trade and would have to make that move every time but I just wish he had more speed. Great hands and shot but speed kills in this league. Hate to say it but just a thought on the top of my head...buy out Richards and trade Nash for some quality young fast guys with potential. Screw Stepan if he doesn't want to sign and let brassard and cally lead this team. I am fine with the defense and goaltending. Let the young prospects play with Kreider, hags, brass, cally. Tomorrow I'll feel different but I just hated watching that game last night. It's only pre season, right?
I only saw the last 2 periods, but I didn't think the showing was so poor. Sure, there were a lot of crazy defensive mistakes -- egregious mistakes -- and these led to goals, but at least in the 2nd and 3rd it was clear the Rangers were the better team. All the issues could be chalked up to horrific gaffes by young players, a lack of timing and a lack of finishing ability that we already knew was a problem for the team.
I enjoyed the way the defense is being encouraged to play, but that doesn't come without a price. Hopefully, they can reduce that cost as they get used to the new system. When it worked there were huge swaths of time (mostly 2nd period) where the R's dominated the puck. And, generally, they were playing a lot faster and more confidently than in the first game.
Also, AV broke up the 1st line in the 3rd period last night, removing Kreider and trying out Fast and Kristo with the Vets, so, he is clearly open to experimenting with the personnel there.
When it comes to the personnel evaluations, I agree with everything you said. I especially like what I've seen of Fast -- not just his obvious gifts, but his subtle strength on the boards and intelligent shifting between D and O. It looks to me like Lindberg is still the pole sitter (if only 1 rookie is coming on board); AV keeps putting him in the "3rd Line" situations that seem to be his logical entry point. He has a remarkably mature game for his age.
I thought Mashinter finally looked mildly comfortable -- which is a great sign. He could be a very useful player down the road.
Boyle really pissed me off when Wideman laid Richards out and he merely spoke to him. This is the preseason; as a team cop, you HAVE to enforce a penalty for taking liberties. There are no lasting consequences to putting your team on a 5 minute PK. (Rangers PK could use the damn practice.) This is going to become a problem when the season rolls around.
What did you think of Falk's performance? I must admit I can't really get a bead on what kind of player he is going to be.
@TheNYRBlog we prob win first 5 in a row .. Lock it up
@TheNYRBlog Not panicking. If they can get through the big opening road trip .500, they will be golden the rest of the way.
@TheNYRBlog They will be better in their 2nd 40 then the first. Plus how much ice time will some of these guys get next weeK?
@TheNYRBlog / Which part most concerns you.
Also mentioned on by the Calgary telecast last night, was that it was the Flames sixth game, and the Rangers 3rd. So while the Flames aren't forecasted to be a very competitive, that was probably a better chunk of their opening night roster than our, and they've been playing in games more consistently.
And finally, I think you're right that we can move past the Marc Staal injury and focus on his hockey like a normal player. Two good hand eye coordination plays last night, first clearing a puck out of mid air, then scoring his goal on a bouncing puck in the crease.
Very, very down on Kreider. In fairness, I always have been, even after his playoff run which seemed flukish to me - a few slapshots on the rush and some deflections. The guy simply cannot make a play with the puck, and given his size (he seems even bigger this year) he's lousy along the boards as well. Can he shoot? yes. Can he skate? Yes. But he's not a hockey player, at least as far as I've seen. Stepan and he are ying and yang - Step is short and slow and he's got all the game. Kreider -big and fast and no game. His future, if he has one, is as a 3rd line checking winger, assuming he learns to use his body better.
You really can't focus too much on score, because obviously a portion of the guys who are taking shifts won't be playing the NHL this season. I watched the highlights and thought I saw Bickel and Asham on for a few of the goals-against, but both managed to walk away only -1.
The one early concern I have his Kreider. I realize that "first" line hasn't been clicking much, but talk about a kid being put in a position to succeed and not doing a whole heck of a lot with it. 1 shot, 1 hit in 13 minutes.
Asham was probably the best forward tonight....is the Taylor Pyatt experiment over yet? He reminds me of Brian Boyle yet a little softer. Rangers made their share of mistakes but I see some promise. I feel Richards is a complete albatross, please get him away from Nash.
No report on Mashinter's night? Very disappointed Adam. You heard it here first, he's making the opening night roster.
Hey It could have been worse...
wow... that looks painful. Hope he heals fast.
Sam Gagner of the Oilers by the way with a broken jaw.
Hey It could have been worse...
wow... that looks painful. Hope he heals fast.
Thought Lindberg had another solid game and continues to impress. With Stepan back soon (hopefully) I think it definitely makes Richards time to produce shorter... Remember the Rangers cant let him get hurt at the end of the season otherwise they are screwed... If a month into the season he is the same old brad, which I think he will be dont be surprised if he is up in the press box until he can be bought out and Lindberg takes over third line duties. He is a stud, and could be a better two-way center than Stepan.
I basically said the exact same thing as you did about tonights game, although I noticed Hrivik as well. Unfortunately I think we're stuck with that first line (or at least part of it) until a certain 23-year old signs a contract. What I found interesting was the lineup for tomorrow - a lot of the forwards who are pushing for spots are playing again. Guess they've caught Vigneault's eye as much as ours.
it's preseason so I'm not like disgusted (not to mention we iced what 4 NHL forwards?, the Flames iced a large portion of their NHL team), but man that sloppy play was really getting to me. Stu Bickel is just a joke of a hockey player, there's just no debating that.
@ElizabethCoop Oh yeah, forgot about him. Yeah, he'd be nice to have this season.
@Al DeMauro I too am unsold on Nash's speed, and to be honest, I probably wouldn't make that trade. I got to watch him when I was in Ohio for two years, and he does not have the speed and sometimes it looks like he is ambivalent. Just an observation. But the intensity needs to pick up this year. This year is huge for the Rangers and I am not convinced Hank wants to stay here if they are not serious contenders.
@me295 @TheNYRBlog Agreed but the depth seems focused on players whose ceilings are 3rd and 4th line NHL. This teams still needs to figure out a way to upgrade in the top tier talent areas. They aren't Boston or L.A. and now, with AV, they have committed to playing more like Chicago and Detroit anyway.
@tommy_martone Where do I sign up for that?
@AndersonEd27 I hear you, but there were plenty of guys who are going to be on the roster or are fighting for spots who could be better.
@browns5719 Just the overall energy level in the first and third games are concerning. Richards as well.
@rangersfan I'm sad to say that I agree with you. He has great raw physical gifts, but that's really it at this point. Hopefully AV will figure out how to get the most out of him.
@FREE LINDBERG Ouch!
@TheNYRBlog no need! Just watch it happen
@TheNYRBlog And I'll go one step further, if they get back Stepan they're a contender. If they don't, they're not. He's that pivotal.
@TheNYRBlog True very true
@TheNYRBlog / missing several key parts and I hope contrActs get figured out before start. Distractions for all.
@TheNYRBlog / He needs to step up. Didn't agree with Richards staying noting play in post season of late season acquisitions
@browns5719 Kreider has been underwhelming so far in the preseason.
@TheNYRBlog / Whole D unit should be better and I expect big from Kreider and Boyle.
@browns5719 Absolutely. Which is why I'm not panicking. No Cally, Step and Hags.