Oh man, oh man, oh man. If only this was the regular season. The Rangers improved to 3-1 in the preseason by absolutely dominating Detroit's b-team, as my buddy Eric called them. The Blueshirts controlled the puck, controlled the pace of play, were strong in their own zone and put in some pretty goals. Who could ask for anything more?
Well, me, for one.
All I am asking for is that they play this way during real play, against real teams. It would be nice to believe that this stellar exhibition season is a sign of things to come but we all know that it is virtually meaningless. That being said, some notes on the night:
*All food and drink, from what I have seen, is more expensive at the Garden. Gotta pay for the renovation somehow ... sadly the real fans won't be around to enjoy the fruit of their money's labour but that is another post for another time. Granted, it may be worth all of the extra money as I heard Micheletti was atrocious yet again.
*There was a sizable crowd - more than there were for the Devils game. And the best parts of it? No Dancing Larry and only one Potvin Sucks Whistle.
*The most important thing to come out of the evening was a return to form by Henrik Lundqvist. After looking horrible in his first exhibition match Hank looked quite solid in this one. There were two plays where he extended his legs going cross crease where I gasped but he bounced right up and showed no signs of soreness. Thank freakin' goodness, we're screwed if we have to rely on Islander Biron.
*His counterpart, Jimmy Howard, was horrible. And because of that it is hard to judge the Ranger goals - he looked like he wasn't comfortable in the least. Granted, the defensive corps in front of him so clearly missed the steady presence of the greatest defenseman of our generation, Nick Lidstrom. Down the line though, you can see the Detroit defense will be in good hands with Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith once they develop a little more. Very impressed with Smith.
*If it is tough to judge our offense because of their defense, then it was also tough to judge our defense because of their offense. Without Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Holmstrom and Cleary Detroit's forwards had little finish. Franzen was bad, Bertuzzi was barely there and Hudler was horrendous.
*But even with the Wings missing their top talent, I was still able to make some observations. Sauer and Valentenko are really making it tough on the Ranger brass for who to keep. Both played solid defense, limited the mistakes and contributed to the offense. In an ideal world, they would both be kept while Rozsival would join Redden down in Hartford. Rozy made several bad passes and he made a classic Redden play, fumbling the puck at the blueline on the power play without any pressure around him. I would rather deal with some growing pains with the kids than deal with more mental mistakes from the overpaid millionaire. MDZ was far better in his own end than he was in his previous appearance and deserves some accolades for that (see, I admitted it Bob!), as well as his ever-present offensive acumen.
*Todd White, have fun in Hartford. It wasn't like Erik Christensen was particularly good but White was weak. He needed to step up his game and, frankly, he didn't. Granted he was saddled with Prust and Boogaard but you would skill like to see more out of the veteran. He didn't see a second of penalty killing time but that isn't his fault, Torts needs to see if this guy can do more than a little north-south skating between two goons.
*Boogaard, by the way, will never again have the scoring chances that he had on this night and he couldn't score on them. So thus far this preseason he hasn't fought, he hasn't scored, he can barely skate ... and we have four years of him. Thankfully Ottawa has Jarkko Ruutu, Chris Neil and Frank Lessard so we are almost certain to see Boogaard do what he is getting paid for this weekend.
*Sean Avery didn't get an assist on Derek Stepan's goal but it was his hard work that kept the play alive. He has been nothing short of fantastic this preseason, shaking my fears that he would lose his job. Of course, I thought he would lose it to Fedotenko, and the two actually complimented each other well in this game.
*Frolov, Gabby and Stepan made for a good line so it would be nice to see them together come opening night. So here is the team I would like to see when the puck drops for real: