The New York Rangers--who were playing their third pre-season game in four nights--were defeated by the Detroit Red Wings 5-3 today at Joe Louis Arena. The Rangers, who had roughly 17 hours of rest between the end of last night's game against the New Jersey Devils and today's 5 o'clock start, came out of the gate flat, and were punished early.
The Red Wings scored two goals in two minutes and five seconds. Dan Clearly buried the first goal and the second was put on the board courtesy of Henrik Zetterberg. The Rangers seemed to wake up after that and started putting some pressure on Detroit and create some chances in the offensive end.
Sean Avery cashed in on one of those opportunities, swinging home a centering pass from Todd White. Although Evgeny Grachev won't get an assist, he was the main architect of the goal, working the puck free from behind the net and sweeping the defender out of the way.
The second period would start with a Brian Rafalski goal, putting the Red Wings up 3-1, but the Rangers would answer back quickly. Erik Christensen--who's had a quiet pre-season thus far--absolutely sniped Jimmy Howard from the right slot. Less than a minute later, on the penalty kill, Alexander Frolov stole the puck and made a picture perfect pass (after faking the shot) to Artem Anisimov who tapped it home to tie the score at three.
Tomas Holmstrom would score the first goal of the third period, putting the Red Wings up by one. Patrick Eaves would score with about three minutes left in the third to seal the deal for the Red Wings. The Rangers played a decent third period, but simply couldn't find any room for some quality scoring chances. The fact that the Rangers couldn't find much offense isn't surprising, since Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are two of the best defensive forwards in the league.
Join me after the jump for my "Empty Netters."
For those of you who are new to Blueshirt Banter, all of the different writers will do recaps throughout the year. All of us have different styles on how to analyze the games, and one of the tactics I use is a feature called "Empty Netters." "Empty Netters" is essentially Marian Gaborik snapshot quick bullet-point analysis of specific people or events. You'll get used to it. Anyway here we go:
- If Anisimov is proving anything to John Tortorella, it's how effective he could be with talented line-mates and top line minutes. He matched Frolov stride for stride on his goal, and put himself in perfect position even though Frolov looks like he was going to let one rip. That's playing smart hockey, and he deserved the goal.
- Derek Stepan is proving that he can be a complete and competent player at the NHL level. In his first pre-season game he showed how effective he can be offensively, and what quality decision-making skills he has in the offensive zone. Today he proved just how good his positioning is on both ends of the ice, and how effective he can be in transition. I'm telling you, if he keeps this play up he is going to make the team easily.
- Ryan McDonagh had a strong game, including some fantastic play on a five-on-three late in the second period. You didn't hear his name a ton today-which for a young defenseman is a good thing, because it means he did his job. He also set up a few plays in the offensive zone, and pinched well.
- Evgeny Grachev had a great rebound game, after being largely invisible last night against the Devils. He utilized his size well, forced his way into the corners in the offensive zone and won a ton of battles near the boards. He probably won't make the team this year, but if he keeps up this developmental path he will be a favorite to crack next year's lineup.
- Martin Biron is really starting to prove that last year's poor numbers were a result of playing for the Islanders. Although he didn't play an outstanding game he was still effective and kept the Rangers in this game early and often during his two periods of play.
- Mats Zuccarello (he took the "Aasen" out of his name) showed off his speed today, and was all over the ice. Although he didn't contribute to the score sheet he made a few great offensive plays and showed off his vision a few times. He also had a good interview with Dave Maloney, and showed off his skill of the Norwegian language.
Overall it was a solid effort by the Rangers even though they lost their first game of the pre-season tonight. The guys that you would expect to impress--Stepan, McDonagh, Zuccarello (to a degree) and Grachev (to a degree)--have been proving that they should be taken serious thus far. Stepan and McDonagh are the biggest rookie standouts in my eyes thus far.
Anyway, expect some amount of cuts (whispers say somewhere between three and eight) between today and tomorrow. We'll have more as it happens.