Rangers Vs. Devils: Clendening Is Proving His Point
Adam Clendening — Clendening recorded another two assists Saturday night, giving him four points in his two preseason games. In his nearly 25 minutes on the ice he was easily the Rangers most active defenseman. There were still some mistakes on the back end, but those are somewhat expected in a new system and with a team that’s not fully stocked with NHL talent.
At this point, Clendening is throwing his name into the hat not just to make the team but to make the opening night roster. Unless the Rangers want Ryan McDonagh playing 35 minutes a night they’re going to need someone they can rely on to take huge power play minutes. Clendening looks like he can be that guy for now.
A perfect example was the Zibanejad goal. Clendening was the guy who took the loose puck and immediately passed it through the zone to J.T. Miller, putting it right on his stick. Miller’s cross-ice pass doesn’t happen without that play by Clendening.
Mika ZIbanejad -- Another two point night (a goal and an assist) gives Zibanejad five in two games. I mean, seriously, look at this goal:
Mika Zibaenejad. #NYR pic.twitter.com/BZzp09YUPp— Alex Nunn (@aj_ranger) October 2, 2016
There’s nothing better than having a right handed shot hanging out at the faceoff circle on the power play. It’s something the Rangers have missed horribly.
Brady Skjei — Skjei had something of a disaster game against the Islanders to open the preseason. He was far more steady in his own end Saturday night, recorded an assist on the first goal and looked more comfortable.
Skjei is going to have to take on a bigger role this year, and a big part of my demand for Clendening is to keep the offensive expectations away from Skjei for as long as possible. Still, it was a big step in the right direction for Skjei Saturday.
John Gilmour — There’s no real shot for Gilmour to make the team out of camp — or even be a callup this year — but he’s opening up some eyes. Originally I loved Gilmour as a low-risk signing for Hartford, but there might be more under the surface here.
He scored a goal off a pretty feed from Ryan Gropp that was an absolute rocket. He was also doing good work on the power play in terms of puck movement.
Vigneault only gave him 13 minutes — presumably to give Skjei and Clendening longer looks — but he should be a good addition to Hartford this year.
Jimmy Vesey -- Vesey was held scoreless again but was as active as ever.
It was Vesey who made the sweet little pass to spring Chris Kreider for his breakaway/penalty shot opportunity. He had two shots on goal and a slew more that missed the net.
He’s also a really smart player. Vesey knows when to crash the net and when to back out and make space for himself. His vision has been far better than advertised, and eventually the puck is going to go into the back of the net and the floodgate is going to open.
Ryan Gropp — Gropp isn’t going to make the team this year but this was a much better showing out of him. His assist on the Gilmour goal was fantastic, and he had a few other opportunities where he had a chance to use his NHL-ready shot.
Stock Staying The Same
Nathan Gerbe -- Again, not that Gerbe was bad, but he certainly wasn’t good enough to bump anyone from the starting 12, or even the 13th forward position.
J.T. Miller — Not his best game, but it’s his first game game from the World Cup of Hockey. Miller admitted that he didn’t get the puck much in the World Cup and he was a little rusty. He’ll bounce back.
Jesper Fast — Scored a goal and played a pretty good game. He’s sitting in the stock staying the same category because I don’t see him making his way into the top nine. Actually, I think it would be kind of a disaster if he did, but more on that later.
Chris Kreider -- Not as dominant as the first game but he was still one of the Rangers best forwards. Earned a penalty shot — he made the right play on that, by the way, with his shot he should be just shooting on a penalty shot -- and had two shots on net.
Michael Grabner — Scored a goal on a deflection and played really well in his own end. Grabner seems slated for the fourth line if at all — depending on what Vigneault does with Brandon Pirri -- but I still love him as fourth line option if it comes to that.
Nicklas Jensen — He’s not making the team out of camp. I think some people thought he would put up a bigger fight because of his World Championship performance but, uh, yeah, no.
Maxim Lapierre -- I think we can stop worrying about him making the team. Took a few bad penalties and looked off all night. Lapierre was pretty good the first two preseason games but Saturday night was a drop off.