Sounds like most are relieved that the Rangers preseason is over. Hockey is hockey, and we are all looking forward to the season started, but it’s tough when the product presented was what we saw last night and throughout the Rangers preseason. Granted, when it’s the final preseason game, it’ll tend to be a veteran heavy lineup and they’ll take it easy, since they don’t want to risk injury.
Still though, we’ve had our appetizer, now it’s time for the main course. This preseason brought to light quite a number of things with this group. First things first, you hope that guys like Filip Chytil and Tyler Pitlick will be ready to go next week. It looks like Will Cuylle is going to make the team out of camp, so he will do a great job with filling that 3rd line scoring threat checkmark.
For one final time this preseason, my thoughts on three of the players who stood out the most in last night’s contest.
Number one is Mika Zibanejad. After a very so-so start to his preseason due to injury, he looked more like himself. He was more in a shooting position, getting off his one-timers on the power play and looking like the scoring threat we expect him to be. He unfortunately could not find the back of the net, but it’s encouraging right before the start of season that he looks ready to go.
Zibanejad historically always starts hot, so looking forward to him scoring the first Ranger goal this season. Cementing the second player I will discuss momentarily always will help too.
That second player is Kaapo Kakko. Another example of a guy who looks quite ready to go into this season and hit 20+ goals. It is obvious he worked on his shot in the offseason, as the goal he scored was a laser off a great feed from Chris Kreider. Kakko in the past has always seemed to be a victim of over-handling pucks, and not for the majority of this preseason.
Kakko is strong in his battles and on the puck, his release is much quicker based on the goals he scored, and as stated previously, he’s definitely faster in general. I am looking forward to what this season has in store for him on the top line. Kakko even stated in his post-game comments after the game that Zibanejad and Kreider both trust him to go out and do his job.
The third player was once again Will Cuylle. This kid is definitely (hopefully?) making the team out of camp. He looks so comfortable playing with Vincent Trocheck and Blake Wheeler. His presence on the 2nd power play unit also gives that unit a nice touch as he tends to play the middle bumper position.
Cuylle also had some real good chances to score again last night. After scoring 25 goals in Hartford and this camp he’s had, he looks ready for the show. His play style is the kind of hockey Peter Laviolette will want from his middle six forward group: Pestering, gritty, with quite an amount of skill as well. Trocheck and Wheeler both have had solid NHL careers to this point. Watching them with a young Cuylle could be very fun.
With Rangers preseason over, here’s what I’m hoping the lineup on opening night looks like:
Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Kaapo Kakko
Artemi Panarin-Filip Chytil-Alexis Lafrenière
Will Cuylle-Vincent Trocheck-Blake Wheeler
Jimmy Vesey-Nick Bonino-Barclay Goodrow/Tyler Pitlick
Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller-Jacob Trouba
Erik Gustafsson/Zac Jones-Braden Schneider
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! We have a week, with a few cuts along the way, and then it’s go time.