The Rangers traveled down the New Jersey Turnpike last night to take on the Philadelphia Flyers in their second pre-season battle in two nights. The result was a positive 3-2 win for the Blueshirts, as the coaching staff and front office got an excellent opportunity to evaluate both the lines and pairings, in preparation for reassignments today.
The first period was a lot of back and forth, with the Rangers dominating in both puck possession time and the face-off circle, but they were not able to beat Phillie netminder Steve Mason. What was very noticeable about New York was how aggressive they were, attacking the puck, with the defense pinching into the offensive zone, and with the third and fourth lines hitting hard and active on the forecheck. The Flyers were limited to three shots on the period, but all were good scoring chances, and Marty Biron, who was supposedly auditioning to be Henrik Lundqvist’s backup this season, did very well between the pipes.
At 1:10 in the second period, Mats Zuccarello passed from behind the net to Derick Brassard in the slot and, on a quick release, the Rangers went ahead, 1-0. The Brassard line, which had Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot on it last night, looked like they already had developed some chemistry in the scrimmage last weekend. Expect to see more of them together, as the new coaching staff’s philosophy is much more pre-disposed toward established lines than was John Tortorella and his staff.
Brassard’s goal was the first of two for the Rangers in the period. However, a Dylan McIlrath turnover led to a Flyers’ goal in between. Biron, who made some more big saves to start the period, had been replaced as planned by Cam Talbot in net, but this one was hardly Cam’s fault. Former Ranger Kris Newbury took the puck, got it to Hal Gill, who fed it to an open Maxime Talbot. Easy goal, embarrassing mistake.
Darroll Powe was credited with the Rangers’ second goal of the game, but frankly, although Powe did a good job of going to the net, it was Andrew Yogan who shot the puck from almost along the goal line to the front that should get most of the credit. Yogan, who needs to make an impression this season and had the least amount of ice time of any Rangers’ player last night, will start the season in Hartford.
The second period ended with the Rangers leading 2-1.
Early in the third, another McIlrath error led to Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier tying the game at 2 goals a piece. The final score of the night was by the Rangers–that same Brassard line that showed so much chemistry earlier in the game. This time, the goal went to Pouliot, off a feed from Brassard. McIlrath got the secondary assist, getting the puck to the scoring area.
1. The Brassard line is likely to be the second line to start the season with Nash, Richards, and Kreider line being considered number one. The line is effective thus far on the ice, but Brassard was not very good on face-offs last night (winning only 9 of 21–43%). He will have to improve that figure for this line to be successful during the season.
2. Jesper Fast, who played with Oscar Lindberg and Tom Pyatt, was one of the better players on the ice last night. Although he did not figure in the scoring, he is a very speedy and shifty skater, and he handles the puck very well. The only problem I saw was some lack of strength with the puck–he was knocked off the puck several times by bigger stronger players. Oscar Lindberg, who was so impressive in Traverse City and earlier in camp, did not stand out much last night. He was less than 50% in the face-off circle and did not get any outstanding scoring chances. He played in all situations, including on the PK, but had none of the pizzazz he showed earlier.
3. Although Powe got a goal last night and he won more than 50% of the face-offs he took, he had a very difficult evening. Positioning issues plagued him, and his taking a penalty in the second period added to the momentum the Flyers had built up from Talbot’s goal. Powe will need to play better to stay with this team.
4. Michael Kantor had six hits last night, which was a team high for the game. No question that he is a tough customer–he does not look NHL-ready though. He had a very difficult night with his defensive game.
5. Dylan McIlrath has started to show why the team was so high on him going into the draft. As mentioned above, he made some major errors last night. Most of that was decision-making, which he certainly will need to work on. But, he has a very good shot and he can be very difficult to get past when he stays in the defensive zone and protects his netminder. I know that the coaching staff is encouraging the defense to step up when they see the opportunity, but I am not sure that this should be McIlrath’s game right now. If he stays back and just defends, he looks almost ready.