It was great to be able to tune in to MSG on Saturday to catch some Ranger hockey - it's that time of year again people and it is wonderful. The Baby Blueshirts faced a poor St. Louis side and came through with a victory. They showed a bit of resolve by coming back to win after blowing a 2-0 lead but the final result isn't really all that important. This Traverse City tournament is all about the players learning the basic Ranger system while getting comfortable playing at a higher speed than most are used to. The brass uses it to evaluate the players so that is primarily what I will do here.
It should be explained that the St. Louis team was missing their stud Vlad Tarasenko, who was back in Russia. There were a few other decent players but the majority of the Blues top young talent have already made the leap to the NHL so it wasn't like the lil Rangers were facing an elite side. That being said, they still had a good showing. For the statheads out there, the official game sheet is here.
A few Baby Blueshirts who impressed:
*Blake Parlett: solid and steady with smart, quick puck movement. Heard good things about him last season in Greenville and Hartford and they all appeared true. No panic and good poise - hugely impressive.
*Tim Erixon: Really not much of a surprise that he appeared calm and collected given that he has nearly 140 games of professional experience under his belt.
*Carl Hagelin: Waited a long time to finally see him in a Blueshirt and former Ranger Red Berenson certainly helped develop him into a player. It will be interesting to see him play against men in a week.
*Ryan Bourque and Dylan McIlrath: The two are together for the reason that both had major things to improve on after last year's tournament and they both clearly worked on them. Bourque is stronger and McIlrath is swifter. Sure Mac got tabbed with a few penalties but he smartly avoided fisticuffs and showed far better puck movement than last year.
*Jonathan Audy-Marchessault: And we thought Zuccarello-Aasen would be too long for a sweater? This kid started strong but clearly laboured as the game went on. Definitely showed good signs though.
A few Baby Blueshirts who didn't:
*All of the 2011 draft picks: JT Miller was barely there. Shane McColgan was trying too hard to impress. Michael St. Croix did quite well during a second period penalty kill but overall was mediocre. Peter Ceresnak was disastrous.
*Jason Missiaen: Everyone said he was a project and man, is he. He needs to put on weight, he needs to work on his footwork and improve his puck control. Among other things.
*Tommy Grant: The oldest of the kids at 25, Grant was barely there.
*Christian Thomas: Perhaps he was disappointing purely because of the hype around him. He looked like a Pavel Brendl-type one-dimensional winger. Hopefully he shows more as the tournament goes on.
Finally, it says something fantastic about the state of hockey that Jeep and all of the other sponsors would jump on board to bring MSG on site to cover the tournament. While it is hellacious to have to listen to Joe Micheletti but we all have to suffer for our passions. Both Dave Maloney and special guest John Davidson (love you JD!!) were far smoother and more interesting than Joe, why can't MSG see that? But still, it was great to be watching hockey again. Game 2 is tonight at 6 against Dallas.