The Baby Rangers followed up a lackluster 4-0 loss to Carolina in the Traverse City Tournament on Saturday with a 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, however, this game was much closer than the scoreline indicated. One of Detroit’s goals was an empty netter, while the Rangers were unlucky to only score once on well over 30 shots plus a post. Here were some of the individual performances that stood out to me.
One of the biggest stories of training camp for the Rangers will be the fate of Alexei Bereglazov, whom the Rangers signed out of the KHL. A 23 -year-old defenseman who played a regular role on last season’s KHL runner-up, one would have thought he’d be a top performer in a tournament like this. However, it’s been an adventurous three games for Bereglazov (wearing #41).
At times he’s appeared slow to react to the play. And while breakdowns due to unfamiliarity with teammates are common in this tournament, they’ve been particularly more noticeable with him. On the goal in this clip it’s pretty clear that nobody, he included, knows which man to take.
However, he showed a lot of progress in the game against Detroit. One of the first things I noticed about him when I saw him in the KHL is that he’s very good at tying up the net-front presence to prevent a screen/deflection/back door pass and gives the goalie clear sight on shots. He did that well last night on the penalty kill. On this particular play, Detroit is still able to get a quality shot off, but it was the lesser of evils to be sure.
I also found it notable how aggressive he was in the neutral zone throughout the game. Here he practically became the strong-side winger and forced a turnover that Tim Gettinger and Gabriel Fontaine nearly capitalized off of.
If the season started tonight, Bereglazov would not be ready to play in the NHL. However, it doesn’t. He is currently going through an orientation period and has shown improvement already. We’ll see where he is at in three weeks, but right now it’s okay that he’s still figuring it out.
I gave Robin Kovacs a hard time in my evaluation of his first game. He stepped up and put forth a much better effort against Detroit. He was very dynamic in the offensive zone, looking to hold the puck for spells until he created space for a play. In the first period he set up Malte Stromwall for a quality one-timer on the power play. Later, he sent first-round pick and excellent skater Dennis Cholowski absolutely flying with a pivot along the boards, and he put a backhander off the post late in the third period. He’s wearing #96 here:
Kovacs asserted himself all night and finally started to show chemistry with Malte Stromwall that had been missing since last October. He was very unlucky to not get rewarded on the scoresheet.
Ryan Gropp had his best game of the tournament against Detroit. He did score on Friday against Chicago, but it was a weak goal and he was nondescript the rest of the game. He scored again last night, squeezing the puck past goaltender Matej Machovsky. He also nearly scored earlier in the game on a partial breakaway in which he drew a penalty. He’s wearing #78 in these clips:
His line with Gabriel Fontaine and Vinni Lettieri was the team’s best. They had a number of long shifts with possession in the offensive zone and could have easily scored one or two more. He did make an awkward drop-pass to Day right in front of their own net and it let to a chaotic goal for Detroit, but otherwise he played a satisfactory game.
Speaking of Lettieri, the NCAA signing was noticeable the entire game. On multiple occasions, he tried to create offense by himself, which is something that usually lacked in his game at Minnesota. Using his speed, he generated a few shooting opportunities and drew a penalty early in the second period. He also did an excellent job of screening the goaltender on the Gropp goal shown above. Lettieri is wearing #95 in these clips:
Finally, goaltender Chris Nell, signed out of Bowling Green University last spring, put in a second quality performance. Presumably, Alexandar Georgiev will start the last remaining game, meaning Nell will finish the tournament with 59 saves on 64 shots; a .922 save percentage. Nell didn’t make any amazing individual saves, but his performance over a collectively heavy workload was excellent. In both games he appeared in control of his crease, seeing the puck well and playing his angles right. He fought through traffic and moved well in his crease. His best save in last night’s game against Detroit was perhaps this one, which came on a first-period penalty kill.
Neal Pionk and Ty Ronning also had good showings. Lias Andersson has been quiet for more of the tournament but started to hit his groove in the third period, most notably setting up the Kovacs chance which hit the post. As with Bereglazov, it’s marathon and not a sprint for him as he feels his way through training camp.
The Rangers finish the tournament today at with a 3:30 game against the Dallas Stars.