Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Breaking Down Which Rangers Stood Out Good/Bad, Roster Battles Following 2-1 Loss to Devils

The New York Rangers opened their preseason schedule against the rival New Jersey Devils in Albany with only a few regulars in the lineup.  The performance was underwhelming overall, but with the few regulars that were in the lineup to fall 2-1 in OT against many of the Devils regulars is not a bad result.  The cliché is that in preseason the results don’t matter and it is true in terms of the scoreboard, but the play of individuals is very important to their chances of making the roster.  A few Rangers stood out tonight while some were invisible and others were just awful.


Artem Anisimov: Arguably the Rangers best forward tonight.  Excellent skating and showed some more strength than last season.  Strength has been the biggest knock on Anisimov so if he can improve that expect even more from him this year.
Dylan McIlrath: After a rough first period McIlrath had an excellent game in all areas of the game.  During the second period was where McIlrath really stood out blocking shots, taking the body, having good defensive positioning and reading the play well in terms of pinching down offensively.
Dale Weise: Weise was very active tonight in taking the body and creating things with his strength in the offensive end.  Scored the Rangers lone goal on a play where his hit in the corner won the puck, then it was played to Anisimov who made a nice pass out front that Weise finished.  Fight against Brad Mills was ugly as Weise got handled and he looked bad on the Devils’ winner when he couldn’t handle Steve Eminger’s bad pass in his own end.
Goaltending:  Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot were both excellent tonight.  Lundqvist was very solid in his positioning and was the only Ranger to show up for much of the first period.  Talbot made multiple excellent glove saves before getting beat for the winner.
Brandon Dubinsky:  Dubinsky didn’t do a whole lot in terms of generating chances, but he was clearly stronger than last season and that bodes well for the Rangers.


Erik Christensen: If that was Christensen’s case to keep his spot on the team, then he should be cut and quickly.  He was awful tonight in all aspects of the game and in all situations.  Time to end the experiment with him and move on.
Michael Del Zotto: Del Zotto did little tonight to show that last season's struggles were behind him.  The turnovers and wide shots that plagued him last season were still there, though he was physical at times in his own end.

Roster Battles:

Sean Avery had a solid first period with work taking the body and drawing a penalty, but he saw little ice the in the second and had a couple glimpses in the third.
Tim Erixon was not overly impressive tonight in his bid to make the team, but the good news for him is Michael Del Zotto was worse.
Brendan Bell was solid, especially in the first period when he showed little to no hesitation in firing shots at the net.
Carl Hagelin showed off his speed, but little else tonight, while Ryan Bourque had a few nice moments though defending an oncoming Ilya Kovalchuk was not one of them.

Video: Jody Shelley's Dirty Hit on Darryl Boyce

Brendan Shanahan is taking over as the man in charge of NHL discipline and tonight he got the prime type of hit that needs to get out of the game when Philadelphia Flyers forward Jody Shelley ran Maple Leafs forward Darryl Boyce from behind with a dirty hit into the glass.

Jody Shelley received 5 minutes for the hit from behind, 5 minutes for fighting and a game misconduct, but the talk is not about if he will be suspended, rather for how long he will be unavailable to start the season.
Following the hit Jay Rosehill stepped in for Boyce and fought Shelley in what was a good fight. 

Rangers Lines Tonight vs Devils with First Impressions on Battles

According to Andrew Gross via twitter the New York Rangers will start tonight’s preseason opener in Albany with the following combinations:

NYR lines: Hagelin-Christensen-Thomas, Dubinsky-Anisimov-Weise, Bourque-McColgan-Deveaux, Avery-Mitchell-Miller.

#NYR D-pairs: Del Zotto-Eminger, Erixon-McIlrath, Girardi-Bell. Lundqvist figures to start.

Interesting to see how Tortorella has put Hagelin and Thomas, players looking to steal roster spots from veterans with Erik Christensen, who is trying to save his job, as a way to see who stands out.  Avery still being with John Mitchell and J.T. Miller does not bode well for his future with the team, but Mitchell has played well in camp so maybe it can help Avery.

The defense pairings are even more interesting.  Tortorella putting Bell with Girardi is giving him an excellent opportunity to get into the battle for the final defense pairing, while Del Zotto gets a chance to play with Eminger who has played with before and could be a final pair preview for Tortorella.  Somewhat surprising to see Erixon not get a shot with an NHL player, but he is comfortable with McIlrath, so that could be beneficial to him in a different way.  Battles going on all over the roster are the most fun thing about preseason.

Hagelin Skating Past Competition In Effort To Crack Roster

One of the more intriguing storylines to watch during the beginning of training camp is the combination of veteran players fighting to keep their spots and the young prospects trying to crack the New York Rangers lineup.  Coming into camp Tim Erixon was the most talked about young player, with good reason, but Carl Hagelin is right there in terms of chances to make the roster.  Hagelin is a perfect fit for Tortorella’s forechecking system because of his speed to get up and down the ice and his strength down low.  Combine those things with a smart hockey player that can play in all situations and you have the ultimate threat to a veteran trying to hold on to their NHL job.  Hagelin’s early camp work has not gone unnoticed by coach John Tortorella either
“Well, he can skate. That’s a big plus. We’re trying to be a team that’s attacking and trying to chase down pucks, and he can skate. So he’s one of those kids that’s going to get a look. He’s going to get some games and see if he can sink or swim. It’s going to be up to him, but he’s going to get an opportunity.”
Speed is something that in the past the Rangers have struggled against, but with players like Hagelin on the way they have the ability to counter the speed other teams have while putting pressure on them as well.  While his speed is his most noticeable asset at first, Hagelin can everything well out there.  He has excellent vision, is tough around the net and in the corners, has a good shot along with very good hands.  Watching Hagelin in Traverse the thing that stuck out most other than the speed was his hockey sense as the puck seems to find him because of him always putting himself in the right position.  This is similar to what happened with Stepan last year as the season approached.  Now we will see if he can have that kind of impact in preseason games.
This is what training camp and more importantly preseason games like tonight are all about as young players like Hagelin get the opportunity to win themselves continued looks until the coaching staff has no choice to keep them on the roster.  This is exactly how Derek Stepan made the team last season as he took the option of Hartford off the table with his excellent preseason work.  Hagelin is going to get his opportunity and while he has never been the most hyped Rangers’ prospect he is as NHL ready as any within the organization.