I had every intention of actually recapping tonight’s game. I sat down on my couch fully planning on paying close attention to the players battling for spots in the second to last preseason game. And then I fell asleep.
Okay, I didn’t actually fall asleep but I could have with how boring the majority of tonight’s game was. Even John Giannone and Joe Micheletti said how surprised they were at the intensity, or lack thereof, of the game. Think of a mid January Saturday afternoon game between inter-conference teams. That is what tonight’s Rangers-Islanders game reminded me of.
I wasn’t expecting the usually spirited affair that takes place when these two teams meet but I was expecting some sort of urgency or something to show the players cared. There were guys on both sides who’s spots on their respective final rosters were anything but secure and you would have never known it. I know preseason is long but with jobs on the line these guys should care a little bit. At least they showed up for overtime tonight.
Anyway, let’s try and talk about those players battling for jobs.
First, before the game, Vigneault gave positive feedback on Pavel Buchnevich, saying he’s very poised on the power play and extremely coachable on the bench. At the start of preseason, I thought there was no way Buchnevich was still here next week. Sounds like he might have earned a spot.
The Rangers coach also said he liked how Marek Hrivik had been playing. The Slovak wasn’t very noticeable tonight but no one stood out to me. I guess the one positive I can give Hrivik is the guys he’s battling didn’t help their causes tonight.
I admit to not knowing a lot about Michael Grabner other than he’s quick and an ex-Islander. I was told while he can fly up the ice with the puck, he basically doesn’t know what to do with it when he gets in the offensive zone. That showed tonight. Speed is absolutely there but it’s kind of useless if he just stops once he gets away from everyone.
Nathan Gerbe kind of reminds me of Jesper Fast. You don’t really notice him but he quietly is very good on the defensive side of the puck. He’s another one that I’m not sure what the Rangers will do with. I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts in New York and then is randomly traded in December or January.
And then you have everyone’s favorite fourth liner, Tanner Glass. I completely understand why everyone is against Glass but I was one of the few who actually thought he played well when he returned from Hartford last year. That doesn’t mean he should be handed a spot. Tonight he fought Eric Boulton early and then had to be held back from taking another penalty later in the first period. I want to give him credit for staying back but I’m not sure if that was his choice or someone else holding him back. After that, I barely noticed him on the ice. Probably because he only played 9:09. His competition is gone as the Rangers ended Max Lapierre’s tryout earlier in the day but still not sure he has a spot on this team.
As for guys who do have spots, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, J.T. Miller and Brandon Pirri all looked fine. (Yes I am including Pirri on that list. He will be on the opening night roster.) Miller took another bad penalty which again led to a goal but otherwise he was making plays all over the ice. Not sure if it’s due to his play from last season, the new contract or getting the chance to play with Team North America but you can see the confidence when he’s on the ice.
On defense, Brady Skjei again looked average to me and I hate to say that. I, like everyone else, assumed he had a spot already penciled in. I’m honestly not sure he’s earned one this preseason. I’m really interested to see if Vigneault wants to teach him in New York or decides to send him down for a couple of weeks similar to what Kreider and Miller went through previously.
Marc Staal and Kevin Klein looked to be in midseason form. And by that I mean they had plenty of good minutes mixed with a couple of head shaking shifts. The good news is there was more good than bad. Dylan McIlrath is another who I had hoped had a spot penciled in and am not sure he does. Was he bad tonight? No. But I’m not sure if he’s done enough to beat out Adam Clendening and Nick Holden.
There will be another round of cuts either tonight or tomorrow and then the coaching staff has one more preseason game before some tough decisions need to be made. I don’t envy them because the players really haven’t made this easy.
(Photo: Melissa Andus)