Preseason Studs and Duds
Let's take a look at the guys who looked good in the preseason and the guys who looked... not so good.
The Rangers went 1-5 in their six preseason games and there are a lot of Rangers fans that are terribly worried about it. Just to remind everyone, the preseason is played to determine roster spots and to get players up to game speed... the games don't really matter. What does matter is what kind of team emerges from the preseason to play in the regular season and though I am not exactly jumping for joy about how many goals the Rangers allowed I saw a lot of good signs and promising developments that have me excited for the regular season and the roster the Rangers are going to put onto the ice.
Let me be among the first to say this; I think the Rangers are going to struggle early in the season. The team will be on the road for the first NINE games of the season, they have a new system to learn, a new coach behind the bench, Derek Stepan is in camp late, and Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin are out of the lineup. Be prepared for a slow start and don't be too disheartened if the season begins with the Rangers struggling and looking like they are headed in the wrong direction.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's take a look at this preseason's studs and duds (aren't I clever?). Here are the players that stood out and deserve some Dunkaroos and a Capri Sun and the players that should go sit in the corner and hang there heads in shame.
Marc Staal- How awesome is it to see a healthy Marc Staal looking like the player he was before his concussion issues and his eye injury? Staal buried two goals in the preseason and hasn't been afraid to join the rush in Vigneault's system. In his own end Staal looked solid and it looks like he has really benefited from playing frequently in the preseason (he requested that he get five games). Let's just hope that it can carry over into October.
John Moore- As great as Staal looked joining the rush Moore looked better. In his first games as a Ranger after the Marian Gaborik trade Rangers fans were blown away by Moore's skating ability and it looks like it could be a serious weapon for the Rangers this year on the rush. Moore may not be a very physical blueliner and he still has some work to do regarding his decision making with the puck but his ability to switch gears and join the rush could add another layer to the offense that is sorely needed.
Dominic Moore- Although he'll almost certainly be centering the fourth line and won't see significant ice time Moore was a stand out in the preseason. At times you can tell that he is still adjusting to the game after being away from it for a year and he needs to brush up on some of the new rules (including no longer being able to use your hands in a faceoff) but Moore showed us his speed and good hands around the net in September and it looks like he could counted on to bang in a few goals this year.
Marek Hrivik- With the puck Hrivik looked calm and confident. In his first three games Hrivik had two assists and five shots and didn't look out of place no matter who his linemates were. Of the three Europeans youngsters in camp I have been most impressed and surprised by his play especially after considering that he was a UFA signing last season.
J.T. Miller- Miller scored twice in the preseason and looked completely at ease on the ice. The young American is versatile and can play both the wing and center ice so I like his chances to make the roster out of preseason with Hagelin and Callahan banged up. There is still a lot of work needed in regards to his two-way game but I like him as a fit for the Rangers third line.
Benoit Pouliot- Pouliot displayed his long, lanky frame and sweet hands around the net in preseason. Pouliot was signed as an UFA for $1.3 million for one year and he looks like he could turn into a bargain. Pouliot was creative, dynamic, and showed good chemistry with Zuccarello and Brassard and looked like he was clicking with Nash when they were on the ice together. It'll be interesting to see where he plugs into the lineup when the regular season gets underway.
Derick Brassard- How good has Brassard been since putting on a Rangers sweater? In three preseason games Brassard scored a goal and an assist and was centering the most impressive line with Pouliot and Zuccarello on his wings. He has a right to feel disappointed if he starts the season on the third line but I'm also going to be excited to see what he can do against lesser competition.
Darroll Powe- Powe scored a goal, killed penalties, took the body, and looked hungry to prove to the coaching staff that he shouldn't be sent down to the Wolfpack. I'm not sure where he'll fit in the bottom six but there's no denying that Powe was a preseason stand out and he is very much in the discussion for a roster spot because of what he brings to the team in terms of his defensive game and penalty killing.
Conor Allen- It's possible that Allen has played himself into the seventh d-man spot on this team though I think I'd prefer if the club put him in the AHL so he can continue to develop and get some more games under his belt. Allen paired very nicely with Staal and made intelligent first passes when he was on the ice. Allen was a free agent signing out of college hockey back in March.
Rick Nash- Nash took a penalty in each of the four games he played and looked uninspired and uninterested with the puck. He went scoreless in the preseason though that could have something to do with him not wanting to risk injury and treating preseason games like they are preseason games. I'm not all that concerned about Nash's lackluster preseason but it would have been nice to see him come into the regular season feeling confident. The Rangers need Nash to be on top of his game this year, here's hoping that he'll look more like himself in October.
Chris Kreider- Kreider played his best game of the preseason last night but it might not be enough to keep him in the discussion for a roster spot. Kreider looked hesitant and uncomfortable most nights and wasn't able to click with any of the linemates he skated with. I'm still not worried about Chris Kreider (the kid is 22 years old) but I think we all would have loved to see him look like a beast in the preseason. Kreider had one assist in four preseason contests.
Henrik Lundqvist- Well, it's a good thing that the games we just watched were preseason games and didn't count for anything because Hank looked very mortal. A lot of the fault for that goes to the defense in front of him but there's no denying that there were a handful of goals that Hank should have had that got past him. Hopefully Lundqvist is more motivated than annoyed by what happened in the preseason and enters into the regular season fully engaged and ready to return to form. I don't think we have anything to worry about.
Justin Falk- I'm not sure what I expected out of Falk but I was hoping, at the very least, that he'd be an upgrade over Stu Bickel. After watching the preseason I'm not entirely convinced that that is the case. Falk may be adjusting to a new system and trying to find his game but he looked slow on his feet and slow to react to the play. It's going to be interesting to see who wins the spot for the seventh defenseman because Falk may have played himself out of it in the preseason.
Dylan McIlrath- In the one preseason game he played McIlrath was guilty of three bad turnovers and two of them ended up in the Rangers net. He might still be adjusting to the speed of the game after missing a lot of time with his injury but we were all hoping for Big Mac to look better than he did. It's no surprise that he's been sent back down to the AHL, here's hoping that he finds his confidence there and stays healthy.
Obviously there are plenty more players that could be classified as stand-outs and guys who should shake their heads like an Etch-a-Sketch to try and forget what happened in the preseason but I wanted to provide you guys with a little bit of a sampler and let you discuss the entire roster and your thoughts on them in the comments section. Who were the biggest stand outs to you? Which players were the most disappointing? Do you share my opinion and expect the Rangers to have a slow start to the season or do you think they'll be motivated after being embarrassed in the preseason and get straight to business?
Let me know what you think in the comments section guys and gals.
Let's go Rangers.