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Rangers Hockey Returns: Next Stop... Play In Round

New York Islanders v New York Rangers Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

There was a lot of weirdness on Wednesday night. Whether it was getting used to hockey being played in July, in Toronto in a fan-less building, but it was New York Rangers hockey.

Before getting into the game, I want to say that I really hope that the bubble holds and all those participating remain safe and healthy, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel weird to be focusing on sports again with all the chaos in the world amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. There are certainly more important things going on right now, things we should continue to keep in mind, but as long as the Rangers are playing hockey we will be around to provide coverage.

Now to the hockey. Giving up a goal right before the goalie switch? Classic Rangers. Scoring a goal late to create the appearance of making a comeback? Classic Rangers. After being without hockey since March, you have to take the bad with the good, although it is important not to take too much stock out of an exhibition game in which many players were getting their legs under them to start.

As for initial straight from the hip impressions, Kaapo Kakko stood out in a positive way, as he was way more decisive than we have seen this season.

There’s something to be said about the youngster getting a four-month break after playing so much hockey from the start of his draft year to the pause, and he’s certainly someone worth keeping an eye on.

Pavel Buchnevich was also very engaged, throwing around his weight and trying to make things happen. He was playing so well before the pause, and his secondary scoring could be a big difference maker vs. the Carolina Hurricanes. He skated with his usual linemates Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, and the line was fine.

Defensively, Jacob Trouba was very impressive alongside Brendan Smith, which is a positive sign when you consider they primarily skated vs. the Isles line of Anders Lee, Mat Barzal, and Jordan Eberle.

Adam Fox picked up where he left off, and showed spurts of why he is one of the bright spots who can be an essential part of the build.

Filip Chytil scored the Rangers’ lone goal and was another player who stood out in a positive way. A long playoff run could do wonders for his stock, as the Rangers ultimately need to decide how they will proceed down the middle with Ryan Strome an RFA at the end of the season.

Both goalies looked sharp, and I found it funny that once Hank relieved Igor it didn’t take long for the defense to start allowing more shots on goal.

I guess it was a sign of nature healing.

In terms of negatives, Tony DeAngelo didn’t have his best game, nor did Artemiy Panarin. Both certainly left more to be desired, and will be expected to contribute in a big way vs. Carolina. Both are skilled players, and throughout the night looked a step off whether it was over skating a puck, or just being a bit off in terms of timing. Part of me wonders what impact the Rangers being the last game of the night on the ice surface, because even though it is July, the puck was jumping around more than it should.

Marc Staal and Libor Hajek didn’t have the strongest games, and that’s something that ultimately is the Rangers’ biggest weakness. Staal left the game after the second period, although he’s expected to be good for Game 1 vs. the Hurricanes.

Defensively it will be hard to overcome such a glaring weakness on the left side, and ultimately the team may have to get around it by giving the lion’s share of ice time to Lindgren-Fox, and Smith-Trouba. In this scenario DeAngelo is neutralized a bit, but David Quinn could get around that by subbing him on when the Rangers have faceoffs in the offensive zone. Late in the game DeAngelo and Fox were on together when the Rangers needed a goal, and that’s a pairing that could be interesting.

Under the WTF category… I don’t understand Brendan Lemieux – a player who will miss the first two games of the Carolina series following discipline from a hit on Jonas Donskoi during the last game of the regular season – fighting in an exhibition game. He doesn’t get a lot of ice time to begin with, and it would have been smarter for him to focus on the hockey part of the game.

As I said, it was just an exhibition game, and we shouldn’t get too wrapped up with what happened. Mike and I will be talking about this game in a little more detail, and previewing the Hurricanes series on the next podcast, so be sure to check it out when it drops on Friday.

That said, what stood out to you? What were you excited about, disappointed about etc. It is great to have actual hockey back to talk about, and we’d love to hear your thoughts.