Friday, September 24, 2010
Preseason: Rangers 4, Devils 3 OT
Sure it was over 80 degrees in New York today but even the heat couldn't stifle the excitement of hockey finally returning to the Garden. And while many of us would have just been happy to see some pucks, the Rangers beat the Devils in a - dare I say it? dare, dare - thrilling 4-3 overtime game.
Oh there was rust and sloppy play, don't get me wrong, but both teams came out strong and played fun, end-to-end hockey. Seven goals, two fights and one failure nicknamed Fatso made for a nice night out.
So I just turned on the television to watch Ranger Rewind and see if I miss anything and the voices of Sam, Joe and Chico doing commentary start making my skin crawl. Several people had texted me during the game to tell me they were the broadcast team but you just can't wrap your mind around just how annoying they are unless you actually hear them. Wow.
Since I can't bare to listen to them cackle, I will just do a quick Ranger-by-Ranger scouting report from what I saw from section 329. Besides, it was a preseason game, there is no point in harping on individual moments...
*Marty Biron: Was hardly tested and yet allowed two goals. He seemed to have a bit of rust that should shake off over the preseason. Still, at this point, I find it hard to root for the former Islander and Flyer.
*Derek Boogaard: He's big. And we certainly should get used to the theatrics of tonight where he lumbered around, threatened to fight PL3 and did nothing. He had a few big checks but I'm not sure they were lined up so much as the big man not being able to stop.
*Brian Boyle: Man was I ready to dump on him. He was so soft and he played so ugly we called him Susan last season. This time around, well, let's hope he can replicate tonight's effort down the line. A few big hits, a solid showing in a fight (despite being jumped by Mair) and one sexy goal. Brian Boyle. Wow. Keep in mind though that he played like this when he debuted in LA in February of '08 and then turned into Susan.
*Erik Christensen: Christy showed some flashes of skill and even had a moment or two of that chemistry with Gabby we saw last spring but he is definitely a ways away from regular season form.
*Brandon Dubinsky: Dubi disappeared for several stretches of the night but when you noticed him, you noticed him. Good size, good hands, good drive.
*Ruslan Fedotenko: Another performance like this and my worries that he will take Sean Avery's job will go away. The Tank didn't play like he had much left in the tank. He kept his legs moving but he didn't go particularly fast, didn't go far and didn't achieve much along the way. He did bump Mmmaaarrtttyyy, giving the goaltender his opportunity to try out for Canada's 2012 Olympic diving team.
*Alex Frolov: His opportunism was awesome - that steal and goal basically sent Fatso into cardiac shock. Frolov's skill has never been questioned, his drive has. He was willing to put his big body in front to block Brodeur and payed the price for it but whether it was just a good first impression or a sign of things to come will help determine just how far the Rangers can go this year.
*Marian Gaborik: My buddy texted me after the game asking where were those two goals back in April and I laughed. Upon further thought, he's right. But why couldn't he come up with those goals during crunch time? He was tired from the Olympics and other teams could key in on him and shut down the Rangers. If Frolov comes through, Gabby will have more of the time and space to score like he did tonight.
*Dan Girardi: I'm pretty sure he was the screen in front on the Zajac goal but that's ok. We know what he can do and he just needs to shake off the rust and re-find the chemistry with Staalsie.
*Chad Johnson: For 18 minutes and 14 seconds I was hugely impressed with him and upset that the Rangers went out and robbed him a chance of backing up Hank. Then he gave up a Michael Leighton-esque softie that forced overtime. DosNueve was strong on his skates, good with his positioning and anticipation ... and then let a goal go through his legs. Unacceptable.
*Tim Kennedy: Despite watching at least a dozen Sabre games last season, I really didn't realize just how small he was. Kennedy got bumped from the puck a few times and did absolutely nothing on the power play but he showed good quickness. He still has plenty to prove over the rest of preseason.
*Ryan McDonagh: Um, Mr. Redden? Your services won't be needed any longer, thanks. After a shakey start that saw him take a bad penalty, McD shook it off and played with a poise beyond his years. His timing was good, his decision making was good, his positioning was good ... my biggest concern will be if he can avoid hitting the post-collegiate wall the way Hobey did last year.
*Brandon Prust: Prust disappointed in the offensive end but came through in the tough guy department, even if he pulled that one-hand-on-the-glass nonsense that he did when he first came to the Rangers. He won his fight by decision but could be more than just a top middleweight, a solid power forward - something he showed alongside Arty and Shelley late last year.
*Michal Rozsival: Ya know, it is hard to find flaws in his performance. Rozy was reluctant to shoot but was far more decisive with the puck than he has been in a long time. As long as he keeps that up and avoids any kind of idiocy in his own end, he can avoid the derisive boos from the last two seasons.
*Michael Sauer: If there was one Ranger I wanted to see succeed it was Sauer and he disappointed. Sauer took himself out of position to make a few hits and also took a bad penalty. The rest of the time he quietly went about clearing the puck but if he is going to be one dimensional, he has to be perfect at that one dimension.
*Alexei Semenov: Lurch is big but not all that tough. He proved again he was quite capable at a simple style of defense but he showed that last season too. He is nothing better than a seventh defenseman, if that.
*Marc Staal: A clear case of rust. Staal was mostly solid but made a few mental mistakes that won't happen once he gets his skates under him.
*Derek Stepan: Like McD, Stepan had a shakey start but overcame it and showed a very, very good awareness of the ice. His passing was top notch and his positioning was pretty good but I'm not sure he is ready to be a prime time player just yet - have to see more over the next few weeks.
*Dale Weise: Another disappointment. Weise has good size and knows how to use it but he didn't seem to get his skates under him. He would get going, the play was turn in another direction and he had trouble adjusting. He was just a step too slow for my taste and will have to put the pieces together if he is to avoid Dane Byers' fate - NHL-caliber drive and strength but AHL thought processes.
*Mats Zuccarello: How can you not root for the little guy? The Devils went after Zuccarello on his first few shifts, giving him a rude welcome to the NHL. When he finally realized that looking for the ref to make a call was a waste of time, Zuke was far better. His stick seems to be taller than he is but he puck handled well and got off a few good chances. He will need to convert a few of them and keep showing his ability to adapt to the NHL game if he is to catch on but the talent is there.
Programming note: I won't be there on Saturday in Newark but should be able to do a quick write-up. Frankly, the only thing I want the Rangers to get out of it is a healthy Hank.