I did preaseason recaps sort of like a stock market review last year and I thought it worked out well. Ultimately we don't care about the final score it's more about what happened within that final score.
Keeping that in mind, here we go:
Mike Zibanejad -- The Rangers’ return for the Derick Brassard trade (Brass scored for Ottawa last night, too) could not have made a more impressive first impression. Anyone who was still emotionally tied to losing Brassard in that deal quickly forgot about it when Zibanejad rifled a one-timer under the bar from the Ovechkin spot on the power play.
I mean, seriously, how great is it going to be to have this from now on?
I think I'm going to like this guy. pic.twitter.com/Xu4s6N6e6q— Alex Nunn (@aj_ranger) September 27, 2016
As a right handed shooter sitting at the circle on his off wing, the Rangers are automatically more dangerous on the power play. He scored a goal from there, got stopped on a great save from there and just missed the far post from there. It's an element to the man advantage the Rangers just haven't had in the past.
I haven't even had time to mention his two assists (his dish to Brandon Pirri on that rush was spectacular) and his two-way play. Oh, the kid is only 23.
Chris Kreider -- We heard from the media that Kreider came into camp more determined and focused. Sometimes that stuff is more filler than truth, but that doesn't seem to be the case with Kreider.
He scored a goal, provided a screen on another and added an assist. He was flying all night in both ends -- made a spectacular defensive play where he used his speed to break up a defensive breakdown -- and went to the net. A lot.
Kreider told the media a big focus for him this summer was getting to the net more. He did that against the Islanders.
Pavel Buchnevich -- While he didn't record a point, Buchnevich had a wonderful first showing. When he doesn't have the puck in the offensive zone he goes to the front of the net -- which, if we're being honest, is a welcomed trait. He actually nearly finished a Kreider feed in front that he was only able to get to because he darted to the crease before anything even happened.
Buchnevich fit in perfectly with Kreider and Zibanejad, and was a big part of that line's great puck movement. He showed off his shot a little more -- he was robbed on one chance from the outside that was ticketed for the upper corner and just missed the net on another.
What impressed me most about Buchnevich was his play away from the puck -- which is what extended time in the KHL does for developing players. On the Zibanejad goal it was Buchnevich who was lifting the stick and taking the attention of the Islander in the high slot to allow the cross-ice pass to get to Zibanejad for the finish. He won't get an assist for that goal but it doesn't happen without him.
On the Dylan McIlrath goal he slid through the slot and found himself a soft spot on the ice by the far circle. Then he did something so few guys do: he readied his shot for a puck that never came. Had McIlrath not shot and passed it off, Buchnevich was A) wide open, and B) would have been able to rip the shot the moment it came into his wheelhouse before the goalie could cover the other side of the crease.
The Rangers might have something really special here.
Also, Kreider and Buchnevich sort of have a bromance already and I love it.
Adam Clendening -- I think Clendening flew under the radar a bit with his signing. I was down on this move when it happened, but the more I look into it the more I like it.
Clendening hasn't seen a ton of NHL time but it can really be attributed to different roadblocks. In Chicago and Pittsburgh it was the talent ahead of him. In Edmonton and Vancouver, well, it was Edmonton and Vancouver.
His AHL numbers are eye-popping (in 13-14 he had 59 points in 74 games) and in his recent NHL stints he’s put up decent numbers. Know what else was eye popping? His performance last night.
Clendening isn't coming into camp with high expectations, but he might be forcing himself into the discussion to make this team out of camp. He worked magic on the power play, moved the puck fluidly and found open space all over the ice. The power play worked really well because of its puck movement and Clendening was a big part of that. He outplayed one guy who should be making the team out of camp (Brady Skjei) and one who is fighting for his life (McIlrath). More of that from Clendening, please.
The 20-93-89 Line -- Alain Vigneault talked about how exciting they have been so far in camp and you saw why last night.
It's a line with a perfect mix of size, speed and skill. All three players can score and all can move the puck. Who do you focus on? Take one out of the play and the other two can hurt you. They’re tough in the corners, they crashed the net and they were all over the Islanders all night.
If Vigneault is true to his word about a real fourth line then this like can be an offensive monster. You'd think a Derek Stepan-Rick Nash line would take tougher assignments with the fourth line, opening up easier roles for the second and third lines.
The Power Play -- It looked ... Competent? It’s just one preseason game so I wouldn’t start going crazy yet, but there might have been more puck movement last night than there was most of last year. Unless we’re counting when Keith Yandle was on the ice ...
Mackenzie Skapski — For a guy who had a year to forget last season, Skapski couldn’t have had a better start this year. He’s fighting for a role in Hartford but he was as impressive as could be last night.
He made three sprawling, last-second toe saves. He made an unreal glove save. When the defense left him out to dry -- happened a lot — he did his best Henrik Lundqvist impression.
Brandon Pirri -- Scored a beautiful goal off the Zibanejad feed and had an assist. I really think Pirri is fighting for either Buchnevich’s spot or the 13th forward role. And since Buchnevich isn’t going to the AHL, he’s fighting for a 13th forward role.
I found myself analyzing the two players a lot last night and thought Buchnevich was the better overall player. Even though he was nervous (Buch actually told Mika and Kreider not to give him the puck as much the first game so he could settle his nerves) his play away from the puck is much better.
Stock The Same:
Dylan McIlrath -- The first 30 minutes were pretty bad, especially from a guy fighting for his life on this roster.
McIlrath got better as the game went on, but still struggled at times. His goal in the third period was him utilizing one of his strengths -- his very heavy slap shot -- and he was smart enough to use the screen in front of the net to his advantage.
Nicklas Jensen — He was fine, but not the dominant guy he was at the World Championship this summer. I don’t think there’s any room for Jensen on this team, sadly, even if he was building momentum for a run before the year started.
Robin Kovacs -- Didn’t notice him all that much. Good or bad.
Malte Stromwall — Took a bad penalty, had a couple of shots. Other than that, like Kovacs, didn’t see him all that much.
Mat Bodie — Played a solid game. Had an assist. Joined the rush a few times, too. I just don’t see an NHL path for him right now. At least not on Broadway.
Brady Skjei -- After the playoffs last year I think the already high expectations for Skjei got even higher.
Let's be clear: Skjei is not going to be McDonagh this year. He's not going to come close to touching Keith Yandle's offense. He's not going to be a top pairing defenseman right away.
Even with that said: Last night he was the worst defenseman on the ice. He blew coverages often, was out of position on slew of scoring chances and just didn't look comfortable.
It's the first game of the preseason so stuff happens, but he needs to be better.
Marek Hrivik — This has nothing to do with his game last night — which I thought was solid -- but more about his overall place on the team. Hrivik can be a good bottom six NHLer, I really believe that, I just don’t think it will ever happen on Broadway.
Had the Rangers not had such an infusion of talent up front I’d be screaming for Hrivik to get a long look for the fourth line. Now? I don’t see any way he kicks anyone in front of him out of the way.
Josh Jooris — Played all of 1:14 before injuring his groin (Vigneault called him day-to-day). A) it’s an awful time for a guy fighting for a roster spot to get hurt, B) The real loser here might be the Rangers if Maxim Lapierre is the top option to replace him (and right now he’s the only real center behind him) until Oscar Lindberg gets back. Let’s hope this isn’t more serious.