Monthly Archives: October 2015

Rangers Shorts–Blueshirts Hang on To Win Season Opener

The Rangers had to wait for the Stanley Cup banner to be raised in Chicago last night before hitting the ice. But once it was up, New York came out flying. It was an exciting, energy-laden first period, where had it not been for the outstanding goaltending of the Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford, the Rangers might have had 4 or 5 goals. But, alas, New York was facing a recent Stanley Cup winning team, one that makes adjustments. After the adjustments, the Rangers became a team that relied on the world class goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers took away the win last night, 3-2, but after the first period, it was all Chicago.

First the good news. In all, eight different Rangers posted a point in last night’s contest. None of the forwards had ice time close to 20 minutes, ie, AV rolled four lines all night. The Blueshirts have won their last three games in Chicago (going back to January 8, 2014). And several players made notable contributions.

Of course, Lundqvist was the key (stopping 32 of 34 shots and just getting barraged in the third period). But other notable performances (whether their names were on the scoresheet or not) were had from:

Oscar Lindberg–just in his second NHL game, he centered the third line, scored the first goal and won six of the nine faceoffs he faced.

JT Miller–Was a part of the first two goals. Got very little ice time, but made the most of it with two assists, three hits and a + 2 rating. As I have been saying for weeks, Miller could be a huge part of the team’s offense, but he is just not the the head coach’s guy. The two have completely different personalities and styles, but at some point, it will hurt the team if Miller’s potential contribution is not recognized and he is not given more ice time to do his own thing.

Chris Kreider–Used his incredible speed to create several scoring chances. He did not finish last night, but Kreider is a star in the making.

Kevin Hayes–who looked much better last night than he has in training camp, tallied an assist and won all five faceoffs he took (after starting the game on the wing).

Kevin Klein–not only did he nail a one timer for the second goal of the game, but he recorded 5 hits last night.

Now the bad. The Rangers were unable to adjust to the change in the Blackhawk’s style of play after the first period. Chicago shut down the middle of the ice and got aggressive to stop the Rangers’ first pass. The Rangers did not make the necessary changes, turning over the puck in the middle of the ice and trying passes in lines that were shut. In addition, New York was terrible on face offs late in the game, and gave Chicago constant possession. Plus don’t get me started on the defensive breakdowns that led to Chicago scoring chances/goals.

The Rangers almost lost this one. And, in fact, were lucky that a Chicago goal was waived off. It was only the King that pulled it out for them.

On the very bright side, it looks like the Rangers have the talent to score goals this season. Lindberg should be able to contribute and Miller is gaining confidence, which should add to the scoresheet on a regular basis. Mats Zuccarello looks healthy (although he and Derrick Brassard did not show any of their combined magic last night, it will come), and Rick Nash had a beauty close in that was stopped by Crawford.

It is a long season. And one game does not a season make, but there are plenty of signs that the Rangers will once again go far into the playoffs and maybe the next time that there is a Stanley Cup banner to be raised it will be in Madison Square Garden.

Wolf Pack Shorts–Final Pre-Season Game and Cuts

The Wolf Pack played three pre-season games this year–with only one at home. No games at the comfy Quinnipiac College (what a beautiful arena; if you get a chance, go watch a game up there), and none at Trinity College. This year, the sole “home” game was on Sunday, in Cromwell, Connecticut, at the Wolf Pack’s practice facility.

Earlier in the week, two Rangers’ prospects, Troy Donnay and Sam Noreau, were reassigned to Greenville (ECHL). For Noreau, this had to be very disappointing. He had made such great strides coming out of junior and just could not step up to do the job over the last two professional seasons. Apparently, he was not doing any better this fall, and off he went to South Carolina to play for the Swamp Rats. Unless a miracle happens, Noreau’s career as a Rangers’ prospect is almost over (he is not expected to be resigned by the Rangers after his ELC expires next summer).

Donnay is younger and will begin his professional career in Greenville. It is a very good place for him to begin, as Hartford has no room on the blueline, and Donnay, the huge tough blueliner, has a long road ahead of him to get to the NHL.

Noreau and Donnay were reassigned after the team won its first pre-season tilt against the Islanders’ triple A franchise. On Saturday, Hartford won its second pre-season game, against Lehigh Valley (Phillie’s AAA team), where two Rangers’ prospects, Petr Zamorsky and Marek Hrivik, had excellent games. Another round of cuts came Sunday morning, with Michael St. Croix and Josh Nicholls sent to Greenville.

Like Noreau, Nicholls is another prospect who has spent almost all of his pro career at the ECHL level. He just does not seem to have the game to be a real NHL prospect. Do not expect the Rangers to resign him after his ELC expires this summer.

St. Croix is still only 22 years old, and although he has played for Greenville almost exclusively since turning pro, he may be able to play on the AHL level somewhere else. He is not likely to be resigned for next season, but he may be able to get an AHL contract on another team.

Now to Sunday’s game. Bridgeport was looking to avenge its loss earlier in the week, and succeeded–they won 3-1. The Sound Tigers were solid in every zone, with rookie pro Carter Verhaeghe, new to the Islanders organization after a September trade with Toronto, giving an impressive performance. Verhaeghe could be a roster player in Brooklyn next season–he looked that solid.

Now for Sunday’s take on the Rangers’ prospects. This will only include those who stood out–good or needing improvement.

Magnus Hellberg was in net. Big, but not confident with the puck at all. Needs quite a bit of work and he will get it in Hartford. Has the size and the athleticism, but… we will have to see what Benoit Allaire can do with him.

Brady Skjei–sees the ice so well. Makes the solid, safe play. Knows where he is at all times. Does not look like he will need a huge adjustment to the pro game. Looks confident and can carry the puck.

Ryan Bourque–he works so hard. Always in the play, and outstanding on the PK.

Michael Kantor–after sitting out most of the last two seasons with injuries, Kantor was working incredibly hard on Sunday. Not afraid to use his body, an excellent forechecker, Kantor was one of head coach Ken Gernander’s favorites this training camp. It did not stop the inevitable though and Kantor was sent back to the ECHL yesterday morning.

Adam Tambellini–He looks bigger than he is. Tambellini looks like he is one of the biggest players on the ice, and he is not. He takes faceoffs well and he handles the puck well, but it is clear that he needs some experience. He could be a top six player at this level (and maybe beyond), but not sure that he can finish. Thus far, he is off to a good start.

Calle Andersson–needs to adjust to the North American game. Had a very good shot for a goal on Sunday, but he took the puck up ice in the second period, the Sound Tigers were making a (terrible) change, and instead of taking the puck forward into Bridgeport’s zone, he passed it backward to his D partner. Really bad play, but apparently one done in Europe all the time. He looked better here than in camp (development and training) lately, so I am optimistic for Andersson.

Petr Zamorsky–What a heavy shot. Now if he could only hit the net. He did in the second pre-season game, but on Sunday, it was the boards he kept hitting. One of Zamorsky and Andersson will run the power play in Hartford this season. My money is on Zamorsky.

The Wolf Pack made their final cuts yesterday (including Kantor, assigned to Greenville), and if Raphael Diaz reports, they will start the season this coming weekend with 22 players.

Rangers Shorts–October 4, 2015

Before I drive to Cromwell, Connecticut to catch the Hartford Wolf Pack’s final game of the pre-season, I wanted to put down a few thoughts about the goings on in the Rangers’ world since Wednesday.

First, as everyone already knows, Raphael Diaz and Jason Megna were waived on Friday, passed through yesterday and were assigned to the Wolf Pack. I don’t want to rehash what many others have said about the Rangers’ choices on who they kept on the NHL roster–the moves that were made were not unexpected–but what is interesting is the fact that it looks like more moves will be made in the coming days. The Rangers are right at the cap and this makes the organization very uncomfortable. If injuries occur, this could quickly become a problem.

Speaking of which, everyone was on the ice for yesterday’s practice except for Tanner Glass, who was scheduled for an MRI on the foot that he injured in Wednesday night’s pre-season game (the results have not yet been announced).

At the practice, JT Miller repeated the same shot from the same spot on the ice that was so impressive on Wednesday. For those who did not see it, watch the video. His release was amazing on the shot and completely fooled Boston’s goalie (Gustavsson) fooled. Well, yesterday, JT froze Hank too. Just beautiful.

Chris Kreider also impressed yesterday. Confident and hard working, he was showing what good hands he has–finishing on his forehand and backhand close in.

Now to my gaffe. I found out quickly yesterday how a tweet can create havoc. At the practice, Lundqvist lost his skate blade and had to be helped off the ice. I was watching Mats Zuccarello at the time and did not see exactly what happened–just Benoit Allaire helping Hank off the ice, with Lundqvist not putting any weight on his right leg. I tweeted what was happening on the ice (I did not speculate; just reported what I saw) and all heck broke loose. I quickly deleted the tweet, but not before I was swamped with questions. Lesson learned. No more tweets without more info.

Finally, as most of you already know, the Rangers’ trip to West Point, and the open practice on Monday, have been cancelled due to weather. When told, the team seemed really disappointed in not being able to go on this bonding trip. But the word is that the weather has just been too bad to make the trip. Instead, the team will be practicing Monday and Tuesday at the MSG training center, before flying off to Chicago for the season opener on Wednesday.

More tomorrow on the Wolf Pack game and then Monday’s practice.

Rangers Shorts–Post-Game September 30, 2015

The Rangers defeated a young and mostly second string Boston Bruins last night. Outside of Jesper Fast, Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle and Dominic Moore, New York put their A team on the ice. Dylan McIlrath and Raphael Diaz, who are fighting for jobs on D, and Tanner Glass, Oscar Lindberg, Viktor Stalberg, Jarret Stoll and Emerson Etem, who are looking for forward roster spots, were all on the ice last evening at MSG.

The final score was 3-2, but more importantly, lets talk about who looked good and who did not.

McIlrath was definitely one of the best blueliners on the ice last night. He clearly won the fight he had with Tyler Randell of the Bruins and his use of his stick to break up plays is impressive. He still has lots of learning to do, in my opinion, he is NHL-ready and will have a spot on the blueline next week.

Diaz is more of a question mark. He has a great shot, heavy and on the mark (most of the time), plus he recorded a point in three of the four pre-season games in which he played, but he makes quite a few mistakes in his own zone that make him a liability at times.

If its a choice between McIlrath and Diaz, the powers that be should take Big Mc. If the team could keep both, all the better.

On forward, Etem was clearly the worst of the bubble players on the ice last night. He was totally ineffective. Unfortunately that does not mean that he will be put on waivers and sent to Hartford. He should be, but I really don’t think this is going to happen, because the Rangers would have to admit that they got basically nothing from Anaheim for Carl Hagelin, and I do not think that they are ready to do that.

As for Glass, if McIlrath is on the roster, he may very well be expendable. And Stoll’s play was pretty droll last night (I have been waiting a while to write that; stop rolling your eyes). He did a decent job in the face off circle but other than that, meh. One or both are the likely last cuts by the Monday deadline.

So its Stalberg and Lindberg that the team needs to be thinking about in my opinion. Lindberg won the 2015 Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award as the Rangers top rookie in training camp last night (last year it was won by Anthony Duclair). He was outstanding in the face off circle and notched an assist. But more than that, he was good at both ends of the ice and has excellent vision.

Stalberg notched a goal last night, but frankly it was just because he was standing in front of a crowded net on a shot by Ryan McDonagh and it happened to hit him. He was okay, but I was not thrilled. His stats are fine, but seeing him on the ice is not exciting in any way and he does make defensive mistakes that can cost the Rangers if he does not tighten up his game.

Other notes:

* Lundqvist is “ready”, as confirmed by AV last night.
* The Rangers may make their final cuts as early as Friday.
* Miller had a tremendous goal last night. His moves around his D-man were impressive. According to JT, he had never done that move before. Really really talented offensive player. AV mentioned in his very brief post-game remarks that Miller still needs to work on his defensive play, but personally I think that he is ready for a top six role.
* Tomorrow (Friday) is an open practice at 11 am. Watch it on MSG network from 11-1.