Preseason Review: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Didn't have a chance for post-game blogs the last two nights, so here's a little recap of the preseason:

The Good
  • The rookies came through in the end. Marc Staal, Nigel Dawes, and Brandon Dubinsky shined down the stretch and have all made cases for themselves to stay.
  • Henrik Lundqvist looked back in form on Friday and continued his strong play on Saturday after a shaky start to the preseason. Now that he has settled down and found his groove, look for big things to start the season.
  • The new big guns have impressed. Scott Gomez and Chris Drury have been stellar and have adjusted well regardless of their line combinations. Drury has shown a real impressive skill-set and even an edge in getting into a fight in Philly.
The Bad
  • Way too many penalties over the preseason. The 5-on-3's and abundance of penalties will wear on a team, particularly without the strength of their top penalty-killers of the past two seasons.
  • Conversely, the power play is looking just as stagnant and frustrating as in years past. Granted there is a lot of puck possession, but far too much passing and nowhere near enough shooting and grit in front of the net.
The Ugly
  • The defense has been anything but effective. Granted, Marc Staal has been emerging, Thomas Pock, Michal Rozsival, and an overall lack of chemistry has really been evident. A move needs to be made.
  • Where's the backup goalie? Stephen Valiquette has been less than impressive and suffered a fluke injury, but Al Montoya hasn't shown enough that he can backup Lundqvist and his salary is an issue. Robert Esche?
Head Coach Tom Renney will make his remaining cuts by Monday. However, an interesting scenario to consider. If the Rangers maintain Dawes and Dubinsky, the forwards would look like this:
Straka - Drury - Jagr
Avery - Gomez - Shanahan
Callahan - Dubinsky - Prucha
Hossa - Betts - Dawes rotating in Hollweg and Orr.

Then the defense would look like:
Malik - Rozsival
Tyutin - Girardi
Staal - Mara with Strudwick as an extra.

Why this is interesting is because it gives you four lines of offense with the option of slotting in a checking line if necessary. Think how this worked for Buffalo last year, rolling four offensive lines. However, the Rangers have the advantage of grit if necessary. Something to consider. The downside is it maxes out the 23 man roster and you will in all likelihood lose Pock on waivers.

Would you sacrifice Pock to keep Dawes?

Rangers vs. Islanders at MSG

7 p.m. game time and it will be televised on MSG. I'm not going to have time to really check in tomorrow before heading into MSG, but a few things to look for:

  • This will most likely be the last audition for the rookies as Saturday should be a very near opening night lineup, with the exception of Henrik Lundqvist.
  • Assuming Artem Anisimov is the odd-man out, who wins the Nigel Dawes/ Brandon Dubinsky battle? Last season, it came down to both of them as well and Dawes came out on top. It is possible they both stay, but not definite. It appears , however, that Dubinsky is the front-runner.
  • Thomas Pock and Marc Staal are likely to skate with each other which is ironic because they are competing for the same spot. How would you feel skating next to your competition?
  • Can Lundqvist rebound? He hasn't looked 100% for an entire game just yet in the preseason. Can he settle down and find his rhythm?
  • Having missed the last blood bath between these two rivals, how will Sean Avery act? Revenge or just any other game?
I'll try to get on tomorrow to show the lines, if not maybe I can do one of those one-line mobile posts from the Garden.

Lineup vs. Isles

There aren't official lines just yet (they will probably come tomorrow) however, Henrik Lundqvist is definitely playing and most likely for the entire game. Here are the lines from practice today:
Martin Straka - Chris Drury - Jaromir Jagr
Sean Avery- Scott Gomez - Brendan Shanahan
Nigel Dawes-Artem Anisimov-Colton Orr
Marcel Hossa-Brandon Dubinsky-Ryan Hollweg
Petr Prucha-Blair Betts-Ryan Callahan

I really like the first two lines here. As I have maintained all summer, Drury is a better fit at first for me only because of his ability to really win and he is more of a shooter than Gomez. Since Jagr and Straka really excel at playmaking over scoring, Drury is a nice fit here. More later...
(photo from SharksPage)

Photo Clarification

There seemed to be some resentment on a couple message boards about my lack of photo credits. First, let me say that Blogger doesn't actually have a place for photo credits. Secondly, I try to use photos from the team's public relations sources, such as the Hartford Wolf Pack official website. Those photos are placed their for use by the press. Thirdly, many of the posters commented on how I have the audacity to link them. The reason they are linked is to GIVE CREDIT to those who took the photo or where it came from. It's not illegal if it's linked. I am not pretending to have taken it and if people like the photo they can go there and see the original for themselves. Any who, in order to appease the masses, photo credits will appear at the bottom of the blog post.

More Cuts [Updated 2:50 pm]

Update: Dubi over at Blueshirt had some additional information regarding the re-assignments. First off, Mark Smith has been released of his try-out contract. However, that does not guarantee him reporting to Hartford. Francis Lessard also was sent down. Andrew Hutchinson must pass through waivers before reporting.

Six more players were sent down this morning:

  • Lauri Korpikoski
  • Mike Sauer
  • Miika Wiikman
  • Mark Smith
  • Dane Byers
  • Andrew Hutchinson
A couple interesting notes about this. While there aren't any surprises here, how is Mark Smith sent down if he was on a tryout with the club? I'll try to come up with an answer to that. Next, with Hutchinson in Hartford, it really leaves no gain from the Matt Cullen trade back to Carolina. How sweet the salary cap is.

Finally, these also mean that Thomas Pock and Marc Staal are vying for the final defensive spot. Personally, I think Pock has been atrocious and Staal is most likely to get the spot. However, Pock must pass through waivers if he is sent down and there is a great chance that someone takes on his two year contract.

Remaining rookie forwards are Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, and Nigel Dawes. Francis Lessard is also with the team, but that is probably in part to Friday's re-match with the Islanders.

Here is the roster with openings:
Straka - Gomez - Jagr
Avery - Drury - Shanahan
Callahan - OPEN - Prucha
Orr - Betts - Hollweg/ Hossa

Malik - Rosival
Tyutin - Girardi
Mara - OPEN/ Strudwick

That's 18 plus 2 goalies. If the Rangers carry a 22 man roster, that allows two players to fill one spot on defense and one on forward.

So in reality, Dawes can not fit this lineup because he isn't a center. However, if Callahan is moved to center, he could certainly play an effective winger on that line. It will be interesting to see how Head Coach Tom Renney plays this out.

Red Wings 6 Rangers 1

It seemed like an overall ugly night for the Rangers as they fell 6 - 1 to the home Detroit Red Wings. Though the game was not broadcast anywhere, a game story can be found at the Rangers website.

From the sound of it, and a little fan reaction on message boards, the Rangers were really flat and the defense again couldn't hold up. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist struggled a bit and wasn't his usual self and penalties continue to plague.

Another issue is the lack of power play scoring which has occurred over the first four games. Tonight they were 1 - 11, while against the Islanders they were 1 - 8 and committed 21 penalties. They will have to be more disciplined during the season and start getting some quality shots and scoring chances to the net.

Al Montoya played the second half and was apparently outstanding.

The lines tonight were:



Islanders 5 Rangers 4 (OT)

Between the radio broadcast and this IslandersTV thing that I gave a shot, I caught most of the game. As we saw against Philadelphia, there were some glaring misjudgments, but a superior effort by Chris Drury. In fact, the Rangers really had this game wrapped up at 4-1 until multiple thoughtless infractions to close the second period. That allowed the Islanders to come within one goal.

The game was penalty filled and even featured three bouts between Chris Simon and Ryan Hollweg. Yes that's right, Simon was allowed to play despite his suspension. I truly find this disturbing and even worse that he had the audacity to go after Hollweg in this way. I'm sure the NHL won't react to it, even though he was thrown out of the game, but they really should examine whether he deserves to be in this league any further.

Enough venting. Al Montoya and Rick DiPietro got into a bout as well though it nowhere near was as exciting as recently waived Dan Cloutier and former NHLer Tommy Salo.
A few notes:

  • Nigel Dawes played well and was perhaps the best forward next to Drury. Is he going to earn a spot? Time will tell, but it's going to be close.
  • Brandon Dubinsky and Marc Staal seem primed to be kept as each have improved and have earned a lot of preseason playing time. With David Liffiton and Darius Kasparaitis waived today, the defense is cutting down.
  • The defense has become glaringly disoriented. Even with Marek Malik in the lineup, there was a significant amount of confusion and missed assignments. This needs to be addressed.
  • Thomas Pock and Andrew Hutchinson have really disappointed and I would not be surprised if both saw their way to Hartford. If they were assigned the defense could look like this:
    • Malik - Rosival
    • Tyutin - Girardi
    • Mara - Staal/Strudwick
  • Do not be surprised if the Rangers make a move in the next week.
The Rangers are in Detroit tomorrow and the lineup is below. See Outside The Garden tonight for an expanded preseason analysis.

Darius Kasparaitis on Waivers

According to HockeyBuzz and Sam Weinman, Darius Kasparaitis has been placed on waivers. This is interesting because if he is claimed the Rangers would be responsible for part of his contract and both the Islanders and Sabres have expressed interest. More to come...

Tonight's Lineup against the Isles' [Update 4:00 with Detroit roster]

From Steve Zipay, tomorrow night's lineup against Detroit:
Straka - Gomez - Jagr
Dubinsky - Prucha - Hossa
Orr - Hollweg - Dawes
Anisimov - Smith - Korpikoski
Tyutin, Malik, Hutchinson, Girardi, Sauer and another defenseman, possibly Staal.
Lundqvist (full game), Montoya

From Sam Weinman:

No crazy surprises though Weinman notes that Sean Avery is nursing a minor injury as is Stephen Valiquette. It also appears that Darius Kasparaitis' days are numbered in camp as both he and Francis Lessard haven't shown well and are likely to be sent down to Hartford.

A couple side plots, Chris Simon may be on the Isles' roster despite the suspension because it doesn't apply during the preseason. Coincidentally, Ryan Hollweg will be in the lineup.

Nigel Dawes has fallen out of favor on the Jagr line and Martin Straka has been placed on the left wing. Tonight is also the debut of Marek Malik, hopefully it will stabilize Michal Rosival.

The game won't be televised, but may be seen on IslandersTV on

Flyers 5 Rangers 0

First an update, this morning Hugh Jessiman, Ivan Baranka, and David Liffiton were all re-assigned to Hartford. No real surprise, though I think Jessiman has been a bright spot in camp, as well as the first two preseason games. As we noted earlier however, there really isn't a place for him. Both Baranka and Liffiton were fairly dissapointing in class, particularly in last night's overall ugly effort.

Now on to the analysis. Where to begin? Obviously it was a sub-par effort, but that is the preseason. The Rangers just truly seemed disinterested tonight with a lot of blind passing, poor line changes, and an overall lack of positioning.

Much of this is common in the preseason, but at the same time it is unacceptable by a team that is pushing for a Stanley Cup bid. Let's look from the back-end out.

  • I was a little surprised that Henrik Lundqvist played the entire game, though he has done that in the past. He played well, stopped a penalty shot, but was visibly upset by the porous defense in front of him.
  • The defense was atrocious. There was no chemistry, flow, or positioning which is only partially excusable by the preseason and mixed lineup. Baranka and Liffiton have already been sent down, but Michal Rosival was perhaps the worst player on the ice. Fedor Tyutin also had a poor game. Both of their defensive gaffs were glaring and certainly not what NHLers should be doing.
  • Thomas Pock and Paul Mara were less visible, but Pock has really dropped off the map and I would not be surprised if he finds himself in Hartford. Unfortunately, it appears that the high hopes for Pock are fading.
  • Finally the forwards. Despite the terrible passing and lack of shooting on the power play (sound familiar?), you can see that Scott Gomez and Jaromir Jagr are developing a chemistry much like watching Sean Avery and Brendan Shanahan in the opener.
  • The left winger on the first line is more of an issue than previously expected, but I have a solution. As Nigel Dawes really didn't seem to contribute on that line and Marcel Hossa didn't either, put Petr Prucha there. He has a greater knack for the net than either Hossa or Dawes and he and Jagr have a decent amount of chemistry. Head Coach Tom Renney fooled around with this combination mid-way through the third, but there wasn't much ice-time to really see it.
  • As the Shanahan - Avery and Jagr - Gomez pairings have really shown up, who does Chris Drury play with? The disadvantage of not having Avery and Shanahan with Drury is that they can't start the chemistry that the top line has. Last night, Drury was one of the few bright spots and you could see that he with Prucha and Hossa was not clicking. His game style is very unique and north-south, but he seemed lost and almost disheartened last night by not having anyone to really jell with.
  • Blair Betts has been stellar in the first two games, really making a case for himself. His faceoffs have been good and he has shown a lot of heart.
  • What is up with Marek Malik? He was expected to play last night, but was a late scratch and is allegedly healthy. Is he being moved? Did any of last night's defensemen have a legitimate chance? All interesting theories, but regardless of what fans think, the Rangers need him to stabilize the defense, particularly Rosival.
  • The power-play is still suffering the same issues as last season. No shooting! There was a lot of great passing by the big guns, but no real shooting. You can see glimpses of what Jagr and Gomez are working on, a lot of give and go's, but they are hesitant to just take the shot. The lack of a presence on the defense is still abundant and if the Rangers really want to compete, will need to be addressed.
Fortunately, much of last night's issues came from the mixed lineup and preseason mindset. However, the power play, positioning, and most disturbing blind passing, need to be addressed for the season. The Rangers play the Islanders at the Masoleum tomorrow night, the roster has not been announced.

Rangers 4 Devils 3

The Rangers had a strong first outing yesterday as their predominantly rookie or non-opening night squad defeated a veteran Devils team. Despite being without Martin Brodeur, the likes of Patrick Elias, Brian Gionta, and Zach Parise all played and were stymied by the bigger and stronger Rangers rookies.

Here are the responses to what we were looking for from yesterday:

  • Jessiman: I was very impressed with Jessiman. Not flashy, but very strong on the puck and played a hard-nosed game. With all the parody amongst the Rangers last night, he stood out and had an on-ice presence. If there was a spot for him on the team perhaps he would be given a consideration, but if he keeps at this pace, the Rangers are going to have to make big decisions next season.
  • Mark Smith: Not totally impressed. Not to say he had a poor game, but his game wasn't above and beyond a player such as Brandon Dubinsky which wouldn't really warrant him a spot over a rookie.
  • Sauer: A bigger version of Dan Girardi. Very solid on the puck, didn't make many real lapses, but wasn't flashy. Will be a shut-down second pairing defenseman in the future.
  • Kasparaitis: When people said he was in shape, they weren't kidding. I was shocked as to how svelte Kaspar was and it contributed to his game. Where last season he was significantly behind the play and slow footed, he kept up with the pace nicely and didn't make any true glaring mistakes. Will it be enough to make the team? Probably not, but he was showing flashes of his old self.
A few other things I noticed:
  • Above, I mentioned parody and that was the best way to describe all of the Rangers rookies. Where none really shone out, they all kept up and played within the system.
  • Marc Staal is a lot thinner than I thought and is still a year away. He was a bit timid and nervous on the puck and had trouble with Girardi down low.
  • Brendan Shanahan and Sean Avery are developing quite a chemistry. While they had a few failed "drop-and-go" passes, you can see they are trying new things and working on some nice plays. It should be interesting to watch during the season.
  • Al Montoya played well, but is still very erratic in his motions. Part of this is his style, but if you look at true top-tier goalies, they are smooth side to side and play within themselves. Montoya played well but was really jumpy rather than calm.
More after tonight's game. Perhaps even another in-depth mobile blog...(I kid...)

Trying the mobile thing. First MSG impressions are that I love the power ring and new scoreboard.The new jerseys are stupid because of the bottom

Pre-game Updates

Heading into the Garden soon, but a few things to ponder before the drop of the puck. First,
as Sanguinetti and Pyatt were re-assigned yesterday, respectively, there will be lineup changes. Next, both Montoya and Valiquette will split the goaltending tonight with Montoya seeing the first half. One final change, Fedor Tyutin is out with the flu so Marc Staal is skating in his place.

Should be an interesting night.

A few things to look for:

  • How does Jessiman really look? There have been some flourishing reports, but now it's time to put up or shut up.
  • Mark Smith. Here on a tryout basis from the Sharks. Could he fill the Rangers third line center role?
  • Sauer. Will his debut be sweet or sour (I had to use the pun)? He has had a great camp, but will it be enough to push the Rangers into keeping him?
  • Kasparaitis. He's trying to earn a spot like anyone else, but can he still compete and is he worth the cap hit if he does stay.
More later. Maybe even a mobile in-game blog if Blogger works properly.

Weekend Lineups

Hot off the press from Steve Zipay's blog:



Goal: Valiquette, Montoya

This second group, plus at least one player from above, will play against Philadelphia on Saturday night.



Goal: Lundqvist, Wiikman

I have some analysis on Outside The Garden.

Cuts Abound

Here's the first round of cuts:

Goalies - Matt Zaba, Chris Holt

Defensemen - Clayton Barthel, Corey Potter, Jake Taylor

Forwards - Joe Barnes, Alex Bourret, Brodie Dupont, Mitch Fritz, Bruce Graham, Greg Moore, Jordan Owens.

Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti will also eventully be sent back to juniors as he is ineligible to play in Hartford. Tommy Pyatt is also set to be sent down. There are no real surprises on this list, including Bourret as he is nursing a shoulder injury.

The real surprise has been Hugh Jessiman who has been strong on the puck and making a real case for himself after three awful training camps. Head Coach Tom Renney has given him a mission of being more north-south and he has been in camp. While there doesn't appear to be too much of a spot for him, it certainly left the rookie with a positive image and a more sure spot for next year.

Tomorrow is the Rangers first pre-season game, 7 p.m. at MSG against NJ. Saturday is another home pre-season game, 7 p.m. against Philadelphia. Chances are the Rangers will use drastically different line-ups for each game as New York plays 6 games in 9 days.

We'll have post-game updates here right after the game... (photo from hartford wolf pack website)

Player Eval. 8: Ryan Hollweg

He will not be a top-line goal scorer. He will not make a flashy pass or deke. However, his presence is felt just as much as a Jagr when he's putting the opposition's toughest guys through the boards. Ryan Hollweg has endeared himself to the Garden faithful as a hard-working and personable guy (who didn't see the locker room dance?). He has garnered a reputation throughout the league as being a hard-hitting player, at times even illegally. While he is typically tough by the rules, his reputation and style of game has made him public enemy number one to the referees. This has been the biggest battle for Hollweg, finding the balance between hard-hitting and goon. While it may appear his only assets are his physicality and ability to stick up for his teammates, he is also one of the fastest skating and has shown some ability for scoring. This will have to be a focus as Hollweg progresses, showing the positive strengths. For 2007 - 08 he seems destined for a fourth line role, in time he could be an effective second or third line player if he can harness his raw abilities.
The Question: Can Hollweg provide an effective, physical role without the penalties? He had 131 penalty minutes last season, tied for 13th in the league. Particularly with the addition of Sean Avery will this number need to come down.
The Definite: Hollweg is one of the most feared hitters in the league because of his reckless-abandon. He will be called upon to stand up for the big guys and neutralize the opposition's second or third lines. Regardless of the role, he will provide a locker room boost and on-ice energy.
The Intangible: With a full season ahead of Hollweg with Avery, the similar players may feed off each other. While Avery learned some scoring and control from Brendan Shanahan, Avery may have a positive impact on Hollweg.

The Stats:


78 1 2 3 -11 131 63 0 0 0 1.6

(photo from the Lower Hudson Journal)

Training Camp Underway

Now that training camp has begun, let's take care of some house-keeping before the official start of the new season. First, the Rangers first preseason game is next Friday, Sept. 21 against New Jersey. The entire schedule can be found here.

Next up, a quick recap of Traverse City where the prospects once again found success. Going undefeated, they won the Championship 5-1. Strong outings were shown by defensemen Marc Staal and Bobby Sanguinetti, as well as forwards Alex Bourret and Brandon Dubinsky. Artem Anisimov also played well leading to speculation as to which of these feisty forwards will have a legitimate shot at this year's team.

Blueshirt has a lot of great training camp coverage. Some interesting notes thus far:

  • Kaspar, while in impeccable shape, has struggled out of the gate. Don't completely write him off just yet as it will take a couple days to adjust to the speed of the NHL guys.
  • There appears to be one line of potential NHLers with the rest of the rookies set aside. Alex Bourret, Nigel Dawes, and Brandon Dubinsky have skated together and will most likely be who the Rangers choose to bring up to the big club.
  • Could the third line center be Ryan Callahan? That was how it looked the other day when he centered the third line with Martin Straka and Petr Prucha. Going by those lines you could see:
Jagr - Gomez - Hossa
Avery - Drury - Shanahan
Prucha - Callahan - Straka
Orr - Betts - Hollweg

Not much room there for a rookie and I'm still not convinced that Gomez will be first over Drury.

Finally the defense. Apparently Andrew Hutchinson, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Fedor Tyutin have all been less than impressive. There isn't much yet about Staal, but Marek Malik seems to be a standout right now. Perhaps Ranger fans will be ready to flip flop again this year. (You know, the first year Malik covered up for all of Rosivals mistakes, then last year it was the opposite)

More later including another Player Evaluation.

Player Eval. 7: Blair Betts

After a major computer overhaul and some family business, finally have some time to concentrate on the Rangers. One of the more intriguing players of the past season was Blair Betts. While he was used as a third and fourth line center as well as a penalty-killer, Betts was the premier face-off man for the Rangers at over 52%. However, he was consistently behind the likes of Matt Cullen and Micheal Nylander and played in limited ice-time and only on certain draws. Despite this, Betts quietly had an effective season. He played all 82 games and wasn't really responsible for an major errors on-ice. At the same time, he showed flashes of offensive talent despite only putting up 13 points. With the acquisitions of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, Betts could be a third-line option and in that additional ice-time, could be a 15-20 goal scorer.
The Question: Can Betts become consistent and keep the offense at a high level? If he is put in the position at third line, can he skate and score with the likes of Petr Prucha and Ryan Callahan? He hasn't had that break through season, but with a new contract and a little security, this could be that year.
The Definite: Betts is another heart-and-soul guy and he's effective in that role. With the loss of Jed Ortmeyer, his penalty-killing ability will be more necessary and pronounced. He won't hesitate to block a shot or dive into a corner, which will always be welcomed by his teammates.
The Intangibles: Unless Gomez or Drury comes out to be a top face-off guy (which is possible), Betts could take a lot of important draws this season. If he is not called on in that capacity, the Rangers could have three top-tier face-off-men, which is a rarity in the NHL.
The Stats:

82 9 4 13 -4 24 120 1 0 1 7.5

(photo from NY Post)

Brian Leetch Night January 24th

The Rangers' tickets reps are now confirming that Brian Leetch night will be January 24th against Atlanta. It is a Thursday evening and should be a great time! Already tickets for that night are hundreds over face value. More later...

Player Eval. 6: Henrik Lundqvist

The King thankfully didn't leave the building this summer as goaltender Henrik Lundqvist signed a one-year deal with the likelihood of an extension to come in January. Henk has positioned himself to be the top franchise goaltender the Rangers have lacked since Mike Richter. Coming into his third season, he has two Vezina Trophy nominations, has been tops in the league for goals against, wins, and save percentage. He has shown steady improvement, particularly last year in the playoffs after a dismal first round exit to the New Jersey Devils in his rookie season. If he can stay healthy and focused, Lundqvist has the potential to be the number one goalie in the league. His stellar international play, including an Olympic gold medal, also shows he can dominate on a big stage, perfect for Manhattan.

The Question
: Not many questions surround Lundqvist except perhaps consistency. In his first full season as starter in 06' - 07', Henk struggled for much of the first part of the season, as did the Rangers. However, when he picked it up in the second half, the Rangers made an incredible run and Lundqvist was the hottest goalie in the league. Can he put together a full season of consistency? This year will be very telling.

The Definite
: Lundqvist loves being a Ranger and New Yorker so even throughout his struggles, he remained hard-working and honest. The goalie is primed to be one of the best in Rangers history and a real face of the franchise, which has lacked in years.

The Intangibles
: As he has become more comfortable, Henk has become a bigger locker room presence and media-guy. While Jaromir Jagr is the captain and newcomers Chris Drury and Scott Gomez will have the spotlight, this is still Lundqvist's team. As he grows into that role, he has the potential to have a real Martin Brodeur effect.

The Stats:

70 37 22 8 2.34 4109 .917 5 160 1927 2 0

(photo from The Chronicle Journal)


Just got in from an incredible weekend at The Gorge in Washington State. I tried checking in from a mobile, but Blogger was not cooperative. Back to the grind and updates tomorrow.