Sep
30

Thoughts following the first two pre-season games

September 30, 2016, by
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The Rangers have secured victories in their first two pre-season games, and the forward group has shown a lot to be excited about. There was significant turnover in the roster for the first two games, and a lot to digest and analyze as the front office and coaching staff try to mold a group of twenty-three out of a very packed field. As you can imagine, I have some thoughts…

  • In watching the first two games of the pre-season, offensive zone puck movement has jumped out at me the most. They are finding lanes, showing patience and creating a net front presence we haven’t seen over the past few seasons. Kevin Hayes continued to show elite vision, even if I wish he would pull the trigger a little more often. I suppose that’s what we now have Brandon Pirri and Mika Zibenejad for.

  • Speaking of Pirri, he has obviously been very good so far. His skill set, while limited, is rare in the current NHL. He is a pure goal scorer. A sheltered third line role, with significant power play time could turn Pirri into something of a secret weapon and provide for reliable scoring depth beyond the usual suspects.
  • Jimmy Vesey was also very impressive last night. His first step quickness and vision were on full display, clicking well with Rick Nash and Kevin Hayes. He has a tendency (from an admittedly small sample size and lesser competition) of finding the soft areas of the ice and putting himself in a position for quality chances, whether on the rush or in-zone.
  • I think John Gilmour will be interesting to watch in Hartford this season. He clearly has a big shot and can skate. The question will be can he succeed with his transition game at the speed of the pro-level. He could be a quality depth find, even as a bottom pair, power play guy.
  • Dylan McIlrath seems to be trying to hybridize his game a bit, which is a good thing. He is still laying big hits and applying his signature physicality, but his skating in much improved and his short, direct transition passes make him much more effective in today’s NHL. I think he has looked better than Nick Holden, so far, so I hope he gets a fair look on the bottom pairing.
  • Staying on the blue line for a moment, I agree with Dave’s assessment that it has been a little bit of an adventure back there so far in the pre-season. Depending on the required price, looking at Jacob Trouba should be seriously considered. He would immediately pair with Ryan McDonagh and hopefully push Staal and Girardi into, at best, second and third pairing roles. This would also force the Rangers to buy-out Girardi before the expansion draft.
  • I’ll be curious if AV tries to simplify his defensive scheme to put the current personnel in a better position to succeed. Missed coverages were a huge problem last season, and giving more of a zone-oriented system might keep the gaffes to a minimum. It would likely have an adverse effect on possession, but the trade off is probably worth exploring, especially with the talent up front.
  • I think Mackenzie Skapski has passed Magnus Hellberg on the depth chart, or should have. Hellberg is really nice minor league depth, who I believe can handle the AHL workload, should the need arise, but I don’t think his game is well suited for the NHL. With Raanta firmly entrenched for the next two seasons behind Hank, I’d like to see Skapski continue his development with increased playing time in the AHL this season.
  • As Dave mentioned in his recap, the special teams have been impressive so far. Last season, the Rangers were fine 5-on-5, but the special teams were killing them. The puck movement on the power play and the positioning on the PK have been much better this pre-season.
  • I’m too lazy to check their waiver statuses, but if Marek Hrivik and Nicklas Jensen can start the year in Hartford, they will be high quality forward depth in the event of injury. I think they are both on the outside looking in right now, but I think they would be fine if they had to be plugged into the lineup for an extended spell.
  • Just a standard disclaimer, Tanner Glass and Maxime Lapierre have no business anywhere near this team for the regular season.

That about empties the tank for me this week. With the busy slate coming up, we will start to see more of the regulars and see how the coaching staff is favoring the new comers. Sound off with any your own observations in the comments. Have a great weekend, everyone!

"Thoughts following the first two pre-season games", 5 out of 5 based on 13 ratings.
Categories : Musings, Preseason

26 comments

  1. Bloomer says:

    Hopefully the coach keeps the Nash, Vessey and Hayes trio together for a while as they did dominate the opposition. V and Krieder have chemistry, I would like to see Pirri get a crack on their right flank. Gorton added some forwards who know how to kill penalties, this is definitely an area where the Rangers must improve this year. The pivot position on the 4th line is still up for grabs, the Rangers with all the depth at forward should see how Miller looks between Grabner and Fast or Gerbe. I think that would be a line that would give the other team fits.
    Clendening needs a good look, I like to see if he can play on the left side. The Rangers young goalies, again very solid.

  2. Rhodork says:

    IIRC Hrivik and Jensen both would have to clear waivers if cut.

      • Ray says:

        This is not likely to be a problem. Neither one of these guys is perceived to have a high ceiling and it is typically high ceiling guys who get claimed at this point. I could see Pirri, McIlrath, or maybe even Clendening getting grabbed, but otherwise no one the Rangers would consider sending down would get claimed.

        • Bobby B says:

          Risk sending down Mcllrath and or Pirri???????, so they can be claimed by another team, the 2 above mentioned players are 2 of our better players!!!!!!!

  3. Bloomer says:

    Bloomers killer forward lines:
    Pirri Stepan Zuc
    Kreider Ziber Buchnevich
    Vessey Hayes Nash
    Graber Miller Gerbe/Fast
    Jooris
    Miller can back up Buch or Vessey if they are having a bad hair day.

  4. paulronty says:

    The thing I noticed about DMAC is how he is jumping into the play offensively over those two games which tells me that his confidence is increasing. Gilmour really doesn’t get me excited, and he will falter when the competition gets stronger. I look at the guys who will be in Hartford eventually & I think he will have trouble breaking into that lineup. I’m not getting hyped about the PP because there has not been much pressure from the opposition there, but I do like the seeming improvement in the PK because that was an Achilles heel last year. Things will start to crystallize after the next round of cuts.

  5. amy says:

    I agree with bloomer

    • Bloomer says:

      I agree with amy. I like players that make things happen when they are sent over the boards.

  6. Mike says:

    “I’ll be curious if AV tries to simplify his defensive scheme to put the current personnel in a better position to succeed”

    AV has never once shown the ability to do this. He believes in a man to man system from D and big help from Forwards. He lives (and dies) by it. It is why he didn’t believe the Dmen were the issue but the F’s not helping enough last year

    • Egelstein says:

      His defensive scheme is great if you have the proper defensive roster for it. Sadly, he does not have the proper roster for it. I like Dylan and think he is an excellent bottom pair type, but he’s not an above average skater. Staal and Girardi obviously have trouble shadowing forwards with even average speed. Klein is not a terrible skater, but he also isn’t a great skater. When half your defense is a bad fit for your scheme, your scheme should be augmented. But, AV. I was really excited about him when he came over, because I just knew he had a solid offensive scheme and he obviously had some success with VAN. However, I had no idea how stubborn he was about his systems, and how much he plays favorites. The scheme, the pairings, the minute distribution…some nights I look at the defensive situation and just can’t figure out what he possibly could have been thinking composing the pairs and distrubt.

      • Egelstein says:

        Sorry accidental send…meant to finish that sentence with “and distributing the minutes”,.

  7. Pas44 says:

    so many options. just get some sunshine on the defense and this team rocks!

  8. Walt says:

    Girardi didn’t impress the other night, does anyone think AV would ship him off to the Pack, as a means of protecting the other d-men ????? I’d venture to say he’d rather loose someone else, to protect Danny boy, even if he deserves to be moved out !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Ray says:

      That isn’t an option. Girardi and Staal have NMC’s and so cannot be sent to Hartford without their consent.

      • Walt says:

        I wasn’t aware of that, thanks !!!!!!!!!

        • Egelstein says:

          Would love it if it were that simple, Walt! But even if it were, I do not think AV would ship him down. For a couple reasons. This is a coach who as of yet has given us no reason to believe he understands just how bad Girardi was last season…he had him on top pair for most of the year. Also, even if AV was all in on that, ownership might not be too keen on that idea since they are paying Girardi a lot (which I think should be no part of the equation, but that’s not always how it works).

          The NMC is IMO a blight on the NHL. NTCs are one thing, but NMCs just kill teams. I would do everything I could not to hand them out if I ran a team. Only if it was a dealbreaker for a very special player.

          • Walt says:

            I couldn’t agree with you more about those dreaded NTC, it’s a killer. I have no idea why Sather gave Dan such a big deal, and add insult to injury, the NTC, after the performance against LA in the finals. He was exposed as a liability, and we are stuck with him !!!!!!!!!!

    • Bobby B says:

      Walt, I will give Danny Boy the benefit of the doubt, but from what I have read and seen so far, the HGH, Testosterone,and Geritol are not working!!

      • Walt says:

        The guy was a heart, and soul player for us, but the game has changed, gotten so much faster, Dan has lead in his boots. I really cared for him, but it’s time to move on from here in my opinion !!!!!!!!!t

  9. Ray says:

    My current impression is that the Rangers are short up front and have depth at the blue line and might consider dealing a dman for a forward, rather than the other way around.

    Justin, you want to send Hrivik and Jensen to Hartford and dismiss Glass and Lapierre, but then who’s left? Buchnevich doesn’t seem ready. Certainly not Chris Brown. Lindberg and Jooris are hurt. Now we’re down to twelve guys and that even includes Gerbe.

    With the emergence of Vesey and Pirri, the Rangers seem to have eleven solid healthy forwards, but eleven is not twelve or thirteen.

    Meanwhile the Rangers have two defensemen with NMCs and six others who likely couldn’t clear waivers. Either carry 8 or lose someone.

    • Egelstein says:

      Buchnevich is absolutely one of the top 13 forwards on this team. Already. You’re in a very small group of peers if you don’t believe that.

      Jooris and Lindberg will not be hurt forever. In fact, Jooris certainly may be fine for the season, and Lindberg isn’t expected to be out too awfully long and has already been skating in some practice scenarios.

      Depth at the blueline is different from talent at the blueline, and I don’t think a lot of folks will be shedding tears if Holden for example gets claimed. Plus, AV clearly is not the world’s biggest McIlrath fan, as we saw while he sat in lieu of clearly less effective veterans late last season. I like The Undertaker, but you can’t rule out AV dog-housing him.

      Sometimes I think you’re just trolling us, Ray.

      Mix and match however you want: I’m not necessarily contending that these should be the lines, but just putting names in spaces where they fit…

      Nash/Step/Zucc
      Kreider/Mika/Miller
      Vesey/Hayes/Buch
      Pirri/Hrivik/Fast

      Spares: Grabner, Gerbe, Glass, etc. etc. etc. And this is presuming Jooris is even injured come the start of the season, which we have no reason to believe. Lindberg also has already been skating in practice scenarios and is not expected out for too awfully long if rehab goes as planned. When Lindy is back he goes at 4th line C, either Jorris or Pirri as F13, hopefully with more of a rotation rather than the same guy as F13 every night.

      McD/Klein
      Skjei/Clendening
      Staal/McIlrath+Girardi (Platoon, maybe mixing and matching with Clendening too.)

      Holden to waivers, may get claimed but oh well.

      What’s the issue on either side of the ice?

      • Ray says:

        It would not be the worst thing in the world if Hrivik was on the team. But most people don’t see him as the kind of fourth liner you want on a winning team and virtually no one thinks Hrivik is on a par with Holden.

        As to Buch, only Gorton and AV get a vote, not the people here who are deciding with hearts, not heads. I HOPE you are right.

  10. Jon says:

    I really like that there’s some shooters on this roster. Pirri, Zibanejad, and Gerbe are all shoot first guys that will help change at least the offensive zone effectiveness. Should help possession as well having guys that’re willing to throw the puck at the net if for no other reason than to create a rebound. A good power forward like Nash or Kreider should be able to clean up from there, if they go to the net.

    Speaking of Pirri, is there room for him on the top 9? I believe in earning your spot but I don’t think Vesey or Buchnevich came here to play in the minors. Hayes played a game or 2 in Hartford but has been in the NHL since game 3 or 4 in 14/15.

    I don’t agree about the defensive zone coverage. This is AV’s 3rd year in NY, I think the team needs to fit the system. Not the other way around. If Girardi is healthy and he can’t keep up in man/overload coverage, then he can’t be a Ranger. Same goes for Staal who I think should be paired with Girardi on the bottom pairing. Having Trouba or Shattenkirk on McDonagh’s right would help that out in a big way.

    Without writing a novel because there’s a lot I’d like to weigh in on, the Trouba saga is nice but I would think Brady Skjei is what the Jets will want for him. At least to start with. I don’t know how well Trouba skates but Skjei can fly and it hard to find a more fluid skater. I think Trouba should help bring down the asking price for Shattenkirk who I think should be a franchise player for the Rangers defense. He’s not very big but he can play top pairing mins and moves the puck better than anyone on this roster. If it costs us Zuccarello at this point, so be it. I think we can win without him. I don’t think we can win with this defense.

    • Pootie Tang Jr. says:

      Shatty is not good defensively. Trouba is a better player right now, IMO–and he’s years younger than Shattenkirk…..