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Rangers Recap: Observations following the preseason opener

Bobby Bevilacqua

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Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers opened their preseason games with a bang, securing a 5-2 win in a pretty dominant outing over the New York Islanders. There were a lot of positives to take from this game despite it being against a split Islanders squad.

The offseason moves seem to already paying off, and the Rangers played differently than they did last year based on their personnel. For the preseason I won’t be doing goal breakdowns or a period-by-period summary, but instead a bullet list with observations.

  • It’s too early to tell for sure because it’s only been one game, but the team played differently. Last year, speed was noticeably lacking and the team didn’t have an identity. The offseason moves made show that the team is looking for speed and youth. There was a lot of excellent transition, puck movement and breakaways, and I’m excited to see this team come together on the final roster.

  • The defense and the penalty kill did not have a great night and the goalies had their fair share of work. There were missed assignments and open opposition, problems from last year, and that needs to be solved by the start of the season.
  • Adam Clendening had a great night though. Clendening, 23, was signed to a one year, $600k contract this offseason and could wind up being the sixth defenseman. He’s a good skater and can really move the puck well, plus he looked very comfortable and useful up top on the power play. The Rangers could give him the chance he’s been waiting for to play steady minutes and prove his worth in the NHL. Clendening will be fighting with Dylan McIlrath, who scored a goal in this game, for that last defensemen spot, but AV seems to be all aboard the skill and speed game right now. We’ll see how that shakes out.
  • Speaking of the power play, it looked fantastic. That was a nice surprise given the struggles the Rangers had on the man advantage last year, a combination of poor personnel usage and just bad play. Mika Zibanejad scored the first Rangers goal on the man advantage and he needs to be on the top unit. It’s about time this team got a shoot-first player with a right handed shot. He’ll thrive if given steady minutes on the power play.
  • Zibanejad was just great all night and in all facets of the game. He’s got an excellent shot, he’s quick and skates well and can move the puck. His line with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich absolutely dominated, which was a great sign. Zib seems to really enjoy playing with Kreider according to what he’s said to reporters and having this line show success early is really promising. The skillsets of the three could really complement each other and help Kreider breakout as well as help Buchnevich adapt and succeed in his rookie season.
  • Brandon Pirri also had a good game with a power play goal and an assist. Pirri was brought in to use his incredibly dangerous shot on the power play, and he looked to fire the puck every time he had the chance. It’s nice to finally get players with that mentality (Zibanejad and Pirri), and that alone makes the power play more dangerous. Pirri could be an excellent addition to the Rangers.
  • Josh Jooris left in the first period with a groin injury and did not return. That’s a tough blow for him especially if it’s long term because it might cost him a roster spot on the fourth line with Oscar Lindberg still recovering.
  • Brady Skjei had a rough game and it wasn’t because he was paired with Dan Girardi. He looked flustered and uncomfortable and hopefully that’s just the result of rust. He could play a major role in the Rangers’ defense this season.
  • Magnus Hellberg looked very comfortable in net, very calm and controlled like how Cam Talbot always looked. Mackenzie Skapski also looked good and made some great saves. He moved well in the crease and moved laterally quickly which is encouraging following his hip surgery last year.
  • The performance of the Zibanejad line as well as Brandon Pirri means that line combinations aren’t as clear cut as they may have looked before. It’ll be tough to AV to decide how to place everyone with guys like Rick Nash and JT Miller looking to retain their spot while newcomers Buchnevich, Pirri and eventually Jimmy Vesey will look to make their mark as well. Clendening has also earned himself a longer look, which wasn’t initially expected.
  • Great first step for the Rangers who will look to build on this for Thursday’s game against the Devils.

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Posted on September 29, 2016, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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