The Rangers will close out the preseason with a 4-2-0 record as they now will get into regular season mode over the next week before the opener on Saturday. Overall, I think we learned a lot about the squad over the course of these six games and it is safe to conclude that they have more skill than the Blueshirts of 2009-10. What we cannot conclude yet, however, is some of the players that will make up the team. Tonight's tilt was the final opportunity, for some, to prove they belong.
The first period began with some carry-over intensity from Friday night's contest, as Brandon Dubinsky, Dale Weise and Nick Foligno all mixed things up after the whistle. Following that Chris Kelly scored at 9:08 to give the Senators a 1-0 lead. The Rangers, shortly after, came storming back when Artem Anisimov buried a Weise rebound at the top of the crease. That would only be the beginning of the seesaw trend, though, as things got even looser in the second.
A total of six goals were scored between the two clubs in the second period as neither goaltender was particularly sharp. Chris Kelly netted his second of the game a minute into the stanza, as he snapped a wrister over the glove of Marty Biron on the breakaway. Todd White answered by following up on his own rebound and tying it at two. Zack Smith would later score through traffic, but that advantage would not stand for long as Derek Stepan would absolutely laser a wristshot past Leclaire minutes later. Credit goes to Marty Biron for the outstanding outlet pass on that play.
Todd White then gave the Blueshirts their first lead of the game when Ruslan Fedotenko fed him after stripping Leclaire of the puck from behind the net. 4-3 was the score. But, as expected, the lead did not last since Jarkko Ruutu got credit for a goal just three minutes later. Thankfully that would be the end of the second period because both teams were shaky at that point. They desperately needed the intermission to regroup.
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To open the third, Zack Smith got on the board again when he one-timed a perfect cross-crease pass from Foligno. I fault the Rangers' defense on that play for being extremely porous. The Sens were not much better on D, though, as evidenced by Zuccarello's tying goal down the other end. Kennedy did a great job behind the net to get the puck to Mats. Peter Regin later had his shot from the boards deflected by Winchester in front, so that would again give the Senators the lead, 6-5. Both Kelly and Smith would finish out their hat-tricks with empty-net tallies and end the game, 8-5.
Not much to brag about on defense for the Rangers this evening. They were full of holes and gave Biron barely any help. Youngsters Pavel Valentenko and Mike Sauer were solid despite the numerous goals, and were probably the only blue-liners that I thought actually played well. It is still unclear whether or not either will make the team, but they have impressed the coaching staff throughout the preseason, that is for sure.
Thanks to mleetch for the reminder: Ryan McDonagh also was steady tonight. Again, yet another defenseman who knows how to use the body.
Brian Boyle had another exceptional performance tonight, wearing the "A" in place of Ryan Callahan. I was unsure about his role on this squad heading into training camp, but he has come out and played very well. His skating has improved, he is definitely using his body more and is getting more offensive chances as a result. I think Tortorella would like to have him on the team, but the question is if there is enough room.
That question comes about because other centers such as Derek Stepan and Artem Anismov continue to excel. I think both of these players have made the team without question. Stepan, specifically, has been unbelievable. His goal tonight reminded me a lot of Brendan Shanahan because it was snapped so quickly from a sharp angle that the goalie had a zero chance of making the save. For a rookie to shoot like that, you're darn straight he is going to get a long look. My prediction is that he makes it.
Todd White, on the other hand, still needs to be cut. I know he scored twice tonight, but you cannot base his play on just one game. He is slow, invisible most of the time and I have not noticed him physically once other than the times he was getting knocked on his behind by the opposition. The Rangers cannot afford to take on pushovers like that, and I think it would be a mistake to not cut him.
Speaking of cuts, the final ones will be made tomorrow (Sunday). While call-ups Mats Zuccarello and Dale Weise stood out tonight, they will both be returned to Hartford. Along with them should be Todd White, most likely Pavel Valentenko and Tim Kennedy, and maybe even Steve Eminger. But I am not the head coach so it is hard to tell at this point who will make it and who will not. We will know tomorrow, and you can find that information here on the site as soon as it becomes available.