Rangers Vs. Devils: Pirri Forcing Himself Into The Discussion
Brandon Pirri -- If you weren't paying attention to Pirri before you certainly will be now. He scored two goals and added an assist bringing his total stat line to 3-2-5 through the first two preseason games.
Pirri took on the role of center -- potentially to show off he can handle the role in Josh Jooris' absence -- and looked pretty good there. Not that they're vital but he went 4-2 on the draw.
After the game Pirri said he didn't care where he played, just that he wanted to play. I'm moving on from the idea that he had to be the 13th forward. He outplayed Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, Marek Hrivik and anyone else fighting for that fourth line spot. That includes Jesper Fast (at least for last night) -- although Fast was far more sound in his own zone.
I've really warmed up to a Fast - Pirri - Grabner line until Oscar Lindberg gets back, when they should go to Fast - Lindberg - Pirri.
Pavel Buchnevich -- Earned his first point of the preseason with an assist on the first Pirri goal. Buchnevich played really well in the first game, but looked even better against the Devils.
When he was on the ice with the man advantage he showed his distribution skills. He would float between the back of the net and side boards, was patient waiting for his opportunities and when he saw them he made quick, crisp passes in dangerous areas. He set up roughly five quality scoring chances by my count.
He also showed off his shot a little more. On a power play in the second period Buchnevich cycled into the point, took the puck to the circle and ripped one on net through three players. He didn't score, but most veterans don't have the ability to hit the net in that situation.
That and his play away from the puck is really solid. He's showing that KHL polish we were all told about.
Jimmy Vesey -- The other side of the Rangers two-headed youth dragon was also impressive.
Kevin Hayes sprung Vesey for a breakaway on his first shift; although Vesey's sneak the puck through the five-hold didn't work, it showed off his speed.
Vesey was just as active as he was in Traverse City, got his chances and showed why he was so coveted this summer. He nearly scored when he slid into the high slot and ripped a Rick Nash setup short side, but was robbed. After the game he admitted he should have gone far side. Scorers think like that after a great chance, and he was a scorer in college.
You can see how he works already, though. He can crash the net or snipe from afar. Vesey had a scary moment when -- while driving the net of course -- he got his face cross checked into the crossbar. None the worse for wear, he crashed the net again a few shifts later. I love that. That's the toughness you want.
Scott Arniel, Hayes and Vesey were part of their own little group discussions all night. Vesey would watch a clip on the iPad, go over it with Arniel and then talk to Hayes about it. That's the behind the scenes important stuff that makes a big difference. For what it's worth, Arniel talked to Buchnevich a lot (without Russian speaking Chris Kreider) as well.
Also, his awareness is off the charts. This from Carp’s review this morning (make sure you read his reviews after every game if you don’t):
He was on the bench when Andrew MacWilliam took a penalty. Vesey was the first Ranger to his feet waving goalie Antti Raanta to come to the bench for an extra skater.
Also, Vesey is strong as a bull. He moved the puck into the zone, Andy Green came in to make a big hit and Vesey simply adjusted his weight mid-motion and leveled Green. It was awesome.
John Gilmour -- Not that he has a real shot of making the team, but the Rangers other NCAA free agent signing has had himself a solid few weeks. He was really good in Traverse City and added a goal and an assist in his first preseason game.
Gilmour is an offensive guy, talked about how he prides his offense after the game and looked OK in his own zone. There were mistakes, but remember the Rangers defensive system is complicated and for a guy just coming out of college. Still, a solid showing from him. Hartford should be pleased.
Kevin Hayes -- Sometimes I felt like Hayes’ sole mission last night was to get Vesey a goal. That sort of ended as the game went on, but it was clear the two have serious chemistry -- even if Hayes was forcing it a bit in the first.
It was Hayes who made a smart little tip pass in his own zone to spring Vesey on the breakaway. He also looked fantastic at the point on the power play, moving the puck with ease.
Hayes worked on his conditioning all summer, lost 20 pounds and just looks faster and more active out there. He’s going to have a big year, I can just feel it. And watching him play, he can feel it too. Confidence was a big thing for him, so this quick start is a good thing.
Dylan McIlrath — For all his struggles against the Islanders (well, in the first 30 minutes at least) McIlrath looked far more calm and collected Thursday night. He was solid in his own zone, threw a few big hits and has started shooting from everywhere.
Seriously, McIlrath had about six shots (none on the net, but baby steps) from all over the ice. He even jumped into a scrum where the puck was loose in the slot and let one rip (it was blocked at the last second to save a goal).
I like this side of him. Alain Vigneault mentioned his confidence has skyrocketed and the shots come with that. He was good last night.
Stock The Same:
Nathan Gerbe -- When the Rangers first locked down Gerbe I couldn't think of a scenario where he shouldn't make the team. Now I can't think of a scenario where he should.
Gerbe was fine last night, it's not to say he wasn't, but he has to play through so much talent to sniff the lineup I just can't see it happening.
Michael Grabner -- I think Grabner has a spot on this team, especially out of the gate with the injuries.
Right now -- and again, I'm not the coach -- Pirri is making Grabner expendable to the 13th forward role when Lindberg gets back.
Grabner showed off his speed and penalty killing last night, and looked pretty solid despite it being his first game with a new team. Like Gerbe I don't think this review is against him as a player, just where I think he sits on the depth chart.
Maxim Lapierre -- Look, Lapierre shouldn't come within an arm's length of making the Rangers' roster. Two days ago I was content with him being the fourth line center in the event Josh Jooris was injured for the start of the year and the Rangers needed a replacement until he came back.
If we're being honest, he's been fine out there. He hit a post short handed, killed penalties and stayed out of the cross-hairs.
With the talent the Rangers have, though, there's far better options. Even Pirri playing an unnatural position.
Nick Holden — He made a few pretty big errors early on, but from there I sort of forgot he was playing. So not good or bad.
Kevin Klein -- Same thing, totally forgot he was playing. Not good or bad.
Jesper Fast — He did Fast things. Played well in his own zone, forced the issue a few times in the offensive zone and killed penalties. He’s basically Carl Hagelin lite. Hopefully not for long.
Stock Going Down:
Marek Hrivik -- Poor Hrivik. Last night they were talking about him on the broadcast mentioning how close he's been to making the team the past few years. This is a tough situation for him because he probably would excel as a bottom-six forward somewhere, I just don't see it happening in New York.
Pirri is going to make this discussion difficult enough for himself let alone allowing someone like Hrivik to break in.
As a reminder: this has nothing to do with his play. I thought he looked fine last night. Just a product of the situation.
Chris Summers — If we’re being honest here, even with the Rangers disarray at the back Summers never had a real shot to make the team. Even as a replacement this year it was a long shot -- Ryan Graves has flown past him on the depth chart.
Summer was just ... not good. Not like the Rangers traded Anthony Duclair, John Moore and a first round pick for anything. (Kidding ... sort of.)
Nicklas Jensen — Any good will towards Jensen from the World Championship has vanished. He was mostly invisible last night (although he did record an assist), didn’t look too interested in being active in the defensive zone and just wan’t much of a factor. His momentum to making the team, which was a long shot anyway, is all but dead.