Marian Gaborik was dynamic in his first appearance as a New York Ranger last night. In a first period power play skate and pass, the speedy winger showed that his groiner was not serious, and that he can be as much a playmaker as a scorer. The Rangers defeated Detroit 4-2, in a game where they saw many more NHLers on the other side of the ice than they had in the previous three pre-season games. Generally, the team played well, but it is pre-season and certain tweaks need to be made.
On the good side, the Rangers came out very strong, skating well, with energy and a good forecheck. They put the puck on net every chance they got, and before the Red Wings could adjust, the Blueshirts were up 3-0. Detroit is a very good team, however, and they did come roaring back. By the middle of the third period, the score was 3-2, and until Artem Anisimov’s empty netter at 19:45 of the third period, the game was up for grabs.
Also good was the fact that Detroit’s three big horses on the ice, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, and Johan Franzen, were kept at bay. Although the three had 13 shots on net, none of them had a point in the game, which was a credit to the combined goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist and Steve Valiquette, more than to the Rangers’ defense.
Marc Staal was not on the ice last night, because he had “slight groin issues” during Saturday’s game in Boston, and it was decided to let him sit. He was sorely missed. The longer the game went on, the more I realized how important he is to stabilizing this defense. It’s true that Michal Rozsival also sat, and he was missed, but its Staal who has been saving the rookies when they have had positioning problems in previous pre-season games.
Without Staal, those issues were much more exposed last night, and to some extent, each of Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy’s errors cost a goal against last evening. Del Zotto particularly looked a overmatched at times last night against the better players that Detroit put on the ice.
Bobby Sanguinetti, who is also looking to break into the NHL roster on the blueline, played fewer minutes than either Del Zotto or Gilroy. He looks less dynamic than either of the other two rookies, and still needs some work on his game, but he did perform admirably in his own zone and should see the ice again later in the week.
Sanguinetti very possibly will beat out Del Zotto, who can play in nine NHL regular season games before his NHL contract kicks in, for a roster spot. Del Zotto will be given a very long look, but he is looking less and less as a lock to stay with the NHL team as the pre-season moves on.
The other defensive hopeful on the team, Alexei Semenov, continues to impress, and because he brings size and a physical toughness to the blueline, he should get a contract if his play does not falter.
Last night, newcomer (but not rookie) Enver Lisin showed that he can be a goal scorer in this league. His play with Gaborik on the second goal in the first period was outstanding. He did continue to have jump throughout the game, and although his goal was his only shot in the game, Lisin was dangerous every time he hit the ice. It will be a shame if the Rangers don’t make room for him as a top six forward to start the season, as he has the ability to be there. But John Tortorella will have some difficult choices to make that happen, and I am not sure that Lisin won’t be the 13th forward on this team.
Also in the game last night (as he has been in every pre-season game thus far) was PA Parenteau. After watching Parenteau play for the last two seasons, I still feel that PA is a borderline NHLer. It seems to me that he is almost there, but not quite. To the Rangers credit though, they promised him a real chance this season and he is getting it. But, in my mind, he just has not shown that he belongs at this level.
Expect more cuts and my evaluation of the forwards in the system later today.