Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rangers Fall In Finals, But Tournament Still Huge Success

The New York Rangers played their way into the championship game at Traverse City, but there will be no championship coming back to New York following a 5-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.  The Rangers were outplayed for much of the game and while there is disappointment not getting the title, that should not take away from the overall success of the week.
The biggest Rangers highlights from tonight’s game were the two beautiful goals scored by J.T. Miller and Ryan Bourque.  The goal by Miller was a tremendous one-timer from the slot to the upper corner, which was created by an excellent hustle effort from Carl Hagelin who fed Miller with a beautiful backhand pass.  Ryan Bourque’s snipe capped an excellent tournament for him which has led many to rethink what they think Bourque’s future possibilities are.
Beyond the goals there was a lot to like in the way J.T. Miller and Carl Hagelin played tonight.  These two handled the size and speed of the Sabres better than any of the other forwards out there.  With Miller you saw his potential a power forward with his strength, especially down low with his work around the net. 
For Hagelin this was the kind of game that shows why he cannot be discounted as a player to make this team out of camp.  The play he made on Miller’s goal was phenomenal, the speed he exhibited throughout the game and his defensively responsible play all make him a perfect fit for coach John Tortorella’s system.
Defensively only Tim Erixon really played well tonight as he had another solid game from the blueline.  Erixon is a cerebral blueliner in the mold of a Marc Staal in the fact that he uses his smarts as much as his skill to beat his opposition.  For Erixon it is about position and stick use rather than power or speed.
Overall in the tournament the best players were Erixon, Hagelin and Bourque, though that is how it should be considering those three are likely the three most NHL ready players on the squad.

Could Blake Parlett Be A Darkhorse To Make Rangers Roster?

When the New York Rangers opened training camp last summer they had spots up for grabs on defense.  The talk over who would make the team revolved mainly around prospect Ryan McDonagh as he was expected to challenge for a spot on the opening night roster.  One player not thought of as a threat to crack the roster was Michael Sauer, but after an excellent camp he made the team and surprised even more with his tremendous rookie season.  Could it happen again for the Rangers?

This year New York will once again open training camp with a couple of spots up for grabs on defense and plethora of candidates to fill the roles.  Steve Eminger seems like a lock to make the roster as a 6/7th defenseman so there are possibly two spots up for the taking.  The hope is that Michael Del Zotto will rebound and reclaim his spot on the team while Tim Erixon shows enough to warrant making the club on opening night.  That is the ideal scenario for the Rangers, but players like Tomas Kundratek and Pavel Valentenko are looking to state their case for a roster spot as well.

One name that was not on the radar as a potential dark horse in the race for a roster spot until his excellent showing this week at Traverse City is defenseman Blake Parlett.  Parlett is an unheralded player who much like Dan Girardi has worked his way through the ranks as an undrafted player that rose from the ECHL to the AHL with the hopes of making the NHL.  His game is very different from that of Girardi, as Parlett is an offensive defender and not the defensive stopper that Girardi has become.

Parlett’s offensive skills from the blue line and his seeming comfort on the point during the power play are things that give him a chance to make the team.  With Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh as the top 4 on defense the Rangers have four shutdown defenders, but little in the way of offensive skill.  Parlett, Del Zotto and Erixon are all players that have more offensive ability and given that any of their defensive liabilities can be masked somewhat by being protected on the third pair helps their case to make the team.   Unless he has an unbelievable camp it is highly unlikely that Parlett would make the team to start the season, but his smooth skating, excellent passive and offensive instincts do give him that chance and if he goes to the AHL he has the opportunity to rise in the pecking order to be one of the first called up should the need arise.  That is certainly more than what many thought of Parlett when the Traverse City Tournament got underway last weekend.