Rangers Settle For Split With Flyers

After watching tonight’s Rangers-Flyers game, I have to say I’m glad I’m not a Flyers fan. Not just for the obvious reasons but because of how the game went. The Flyers should’ve won this game easily and instead barely squeaked out a victory. That wouldn’t make me confident going into the season.

Last night, Rangers fans laughed as the Flyers put out their C squad to the Rangers above B squad. Then they saw the rosters for tonight and realized the tables would be turned. For the first period, it looked like it wouldn’t matter as it was 1-1 after 20 minutes with both teams getting nine shots on goal. And the Rangers goal? A beautiful shorthanded shot by Carl Hagelin. I’m not sure what the Flyers power play was doing on the play.

Honestly the teams looked pretty even which isn’t really good news for Flyers fans since most of tonight’s roster for the visitors won’t be in New York on opening night. (The best way to show how young the Rangers roster was tonight was to look at who wore letters – Dominic Moore, Carl Hagelin and…Kevin Klein.)

Only problem? Next came the second period. Now I won’t completely beat up the Rangers for playing the way they did in the middle frame as the Flyers should’ve looked like the better team the entire game so it could’ve been worse. And honestly, Rangers fans should be used to seeing a second period where their team is dominated. It happens all too often. That said, it wasn’t a good period for a bunch of kids who are trying to prove they can play against NHL players. (Initial reaction: Most of them can’t.)

The boys looked a little better in the third period but to me, I was glad this game didn’t count. And that this won’t be the regular roster I have to watch every night. (I know Sam and Joe were impressed with everyone. I was impressed with what the future could be. I wasn’t handing most of the guys on the ice a roster spot this season.)

And now come the cuts. It’s going to be interesting as I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few unexpected cuts tomorrow. In regards to guys who played tonight, I can tell you who won’t be on the cut list (besides the obvious ones who already have spots) – Anthony Duclair and Matt Hunwick. Still not sure either makes the team (although Hunwick seems to be the only one who got Vigneault’s message to step up for that last defense spot) but I would be shocked if either of them weren’t around at the end of the week. I also think Chris Mueller has done enough to stick around but it’s not as obvious as those two. After that, it honestly is wide open. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Rangers Roster For Tonight + Predictions On Cuts

For some reason I thought there would be cuts today. Turns out the Rangers plan to turn 43 players into 30 after tonight’s game. The roster for tonight tells a lot about where people stand as it includes a couple of guys who played last night plus a bunch more who are hoping not to get bad news tonight or tomorrow:

Forwards: Ryan Bourque, Anthony Duclair, Carl Hagelin, Ryan Haggerty, Kevin Hayes, Marek Hrivik, Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg, Dominic Moore, Chris Mueller, Lee Stempniak, Nick Tarnasky

Defensemen: Conor Allen, Mat Bodie, Matt Hunwick, Kevin Klein, Mike Kostka, John Moore

Goalies: Cam Talbot, Jason Missiaen

If I had to take a guess, the only reason Bodie is getting a game is because Dan Girardi is being held out one more day. He did skate in New York with Ryan Malone so that’s a good sign for both. Unfortunately Matthew Lombardi still isn’t skating so not sure what that does for his chances (although Vigneault is hopeful he will be skating soon).

I would say it’s a big game for a couple of kids up front and on defense, Kostka needs to show something. Hunwick getting the back to back tells me the coaching staff wants to see a little more of him before making a decision. As I already said, I thought he looked good last night so maybe he has the edge for the seventh spot if he can replicate that performance again tonight.

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In regards to those cuts, I’m going to try and take a stab at who might be leaving. Keep in mind this could change with a good/bad game from someone tonight in Philadelphia.

The Rangers currently have the following players remaining in camp:

Forwards: Chris Bourque, Ryan Bourque, Derick Brassard, Anthony Duclair, Jesper Fast,  Tanner Glass, Carl Hagelin, Ryan Haggerty, Kevin Hayes, Marek Hrvik, Chris Kreider, Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg, Matt Lombardi, Ryan Malone, Chris McCarthy, J.T. Miller, Dominic Moore, Chris Mueller, Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Lee Stempniak, Nick Tarnasky, Petr Zamorsky, and Mats Zuccarello

Defense: Connor Allen, Mat Bodie, Dan Boyle, Dan Girardi, Tommy Hughes, Matt Hunwick, Steve Kampfer, Kevin Klein, Mike Kostka, Ryan McDonagh, Dylan McIlrath, John Moore, Sam Noreau, and Marc Staal

Goaltenders: Henrik Lundqvist, Cam Talbot, Cedric Desjardins, Jason Missiaen

I can easily pick out seven guys that will be sent down – Chris McCarthy, Nick Tarnasky, Petr Zamorsky, Mat Bodie, Tommy Hughes, Sam Noreau and a goaltender (I’m guessing Missiaen unless they want Desjardins to get some playing time). All of these guys have played either none or one preseason game out of the four completed included tonight’s match up. The only exception is Tarnasky, who got into two games, but I still expect him to be going down tomorrow.

That gets us down to 36.

Up front, I would not be surprised to see one or both Bourque brothers be sent down. Also think Kristo will need the game of his life tonight to make the cut. My gut says there will be one surprise in this group – maybe Hayes or Hrivik go down in this group. Lombardi and Malone have to stay because they haven’t played enough to be judged which may make the team keep more guys than they planned. (Side note: I noticed I forgot to include Stepan on this list. He’s obviously still in camp so I may have someone on here who isn’t with the team at the moment as he should be in the list of 43 players left in camp.)

On defense, I’d say one of the three guys signed this summer (Hunwick, Kampfer, Kostka) is out. My guess is Kampfer. Also wouldn’t be surprised to see one of Allen or McIlrath go down tomorrow.

That would get the team roughly to 30 players and make the last two preseason games an all-out war for roster spots. Should be a fun couple of days!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Take First Half Of Back-to-Back

Whenever the Rangers play the Flyers, you can usually count on a couple of things. One, the Rangers will have the better goaltending. Two, the Rangers will usually remember how to score goals. Three, the Flyers will goon it up at some point. Tonight’s game included all three.

Now looking at the rosters, it was pretty clear the home team was the better team. In the Flyers defense, someone thought it was a good idea to schedule three preseason games on three consecutive nights so one night obviously was going to have a thin roster. That was tonight. Some of the kids tried but there was only so much they could do.

To show how lopsided the two teams were, it was 3-0 Rangers halfway through the first period with the home team carrying a 7-1 shot advantage at one point. I’m not sure if that was completely accurate as those counting stats were in preseason form as well but it was close. And those goals weren’t luck. There was a beautiful snap shot by Duclair coming down the wing, an absolutely filthy dangle by Haggerty to double the score and a perfect tip by Fast on a Boyle blast just nine minutes in.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsSo what did the Flyers do? They became the Flyers. First, Zach Stortini fought Tanner Glass. It was a pretty good bout. (Side note: I have to include this tweet about Stortini from the pregame:

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Absolutely classic. And it’s no coincidence comments like this get made to the same team.)

A minute later, Blair Jones fought Ryan McDonagh. Yes, you read that correctly. Being at the game, I have no idea what started it but I didn’t like. Fortunately neither did the refs as they allowed the first fight to go on for a few minutes while that one was stopped within seconds.

Not sure if both benches were warned after that but it calmed down for the remainder of the period and we went to intermission with the home team still leading 3-0.

But of course, next up was our favorite period and it started just as it always does. The Flyers got one goal on a bad turnover a little over a minute in. They also spent the next five minutes hemmed in their zone. Then Haggerty decided enough of that and regained the three goal lead with a snap shot of his own from the wing. I insist Marc Staal should’ve gotten an assist on the next goal but since it went to the visitors, we won’t talk about it. A power play goal from Mueller a little while later made it 5-2 which is how we would go into the third.

At first it looked like they would pick up where they left off in the second, but the Rangers found their footing and managed to keep control of the game with each side getting only a goal to end the night 6-3.

As I’ve done each preseason game, I’ll point out the guys who stood out to me.

I’ve said I wanted to see Ryan Haggerty play and tonight I did. And he was everything I heard he would be. The kid wants to stay and it showed tonight. He will get another chance tomorrow and while there are no guarantees, if he plays like he did tonight it will be very tough to send him down. (The dangle on his first goal was ridiculous.)

Anthony Duclair is another one who is making it difficult to send him down. He looks good. The question is can he sustain a full season. I wish he had the option of the AHL but since he doesn’t, I don’t think the Rangers have a choice but to send him down. Doesn’t help that they would have to move someone else in order to keep him. (If he’s sent back to juniors, he won’t count on the 50 roster limit which is good because the Rangers are at 50 without him. If he’s kept, he will and someone else will have to go.)

And while no one is talking about him, Jesper Fast quietly impressed again. I saw someone point out on twitter a reminder that he made it out of camp last year. (Sorry, I would give credit but I don’t remember who said it.) I wouldn’t be surprised if he did it again.

At center, Chris Mueller looked good centering a line with Duclair and Haggerty. And while Kevin Hayes didn’t look bad, I still wonder if he’s better off starting the season in Hartford. That said, his no look pass on Fast’s goal in the third period was insane. I may not be his biggest fan but that pass was a thing of beauty.

On defense, I wouldn’t say I was impressed with Matt Hunwick but he didn’t look as bad as he did the other night. Same goes for Dylan McIlrath. He looked a million times better tonight and threw a couple of nice hits. (He gave Zac Rinaldo a shove that sent the Flyers goon well…flying. Rinaldo wasn’t happy, McIlrath gave a look as if to say “oops” and the Garden absolutely loved it.) The problem for McIlrath is right now the top six are set. There’s no point in keeping him to be the seventh.

And while he isn’t a kid, I actually noticed Tanner Glass. He took a dumb penalty in the first but otherwise he actually looked like a competent hockey player. We’ll see how long it lasts.

After the game, Vigneault said there would be cuts tomorrow and Wednesday to get the team to around 30 for the rest of the week. Tomorrow’s cuts will probably be the ones I mentioned yesterday. The next round will get interesting. Vigneault said some guys will play again tomorrow night so you know they will be watched closely. After the obvious cuts come down, I’ll take a stab at who I think will be left when the boys take on Chicago on Friday.

Until then, the boys head to Philly and we pray for another somewhat clean game tomorrow night. I honestly don’t care the outcome as long as no one gets hurt. Please Flyers, don’t make me start hating you again.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Prepare For Back-to-Back With Flyers

After a deserving day off yesterday, the Rangers were back to work today to prepare for a back-to-back, home-and-home with the Flyers tomorrow and Tuesday. The first squad on the ice was the squad playing tomorrow which included:

Rick Nash – J.T. Miller – Martin St. Louis
Chris Kreider – Derick Brassard – Mats Zuccarello
Marek Hrivik – Matt Lombardi – Jesper Fast
Anthony Duclair – Chris Mueller – Kevin Hayes

Steven Kampfer – Ryan McDonagh
Michael Kostka – Matt Hunwick
Marc Staal – Dan Boyle
Mat Bodie – Dylan McIlrath

Henrik Lundqvist
Cedric Desjardins

There will be one change to those lines as Lombardi suffered a groin injury in practice today and is now out for both games against Philly. That’s not a good sign for the center who was already fighting for a position. I initially thought he had an edge to get it but now I’m not so sure. Guessing Lindberg will slot in tomorrow but we’ll see.

You will notice a few players switched teams as well as some familiar faces. I am honestly curious why J.T. Miller and Henrik Lundqvist are playing all three of the first three games. I’m assuming they will both get off on Tuesday. (Lundqvist is scheduled to play the full game tomorrow while Talbot is expected to get a full game in Philly. I don’t expect Lundqvist to sit on the bench for that one.)

I am intrigued to see that last forward line. Let’s see how Hayes does on wing and Duclair does without Nash setting him up. And yes there is an extra defense pair in there. Obviously one of them won’t play.

The remaining players skated during the second session. The regulars in that group plus those we know are fighting for spots are expected to go to Philly on Tuesday. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the guys from the first group play both games. I’m a little disappointed some of these guys are only playing the away games. I wanted to see them in person.

There was one name missing from the list as Ryan Malone didn’t skate with either squad. He is being kept off the ice and is considered day-to-day with a hip flexor. Vigneault said he won’t play against the Flyers in either game but hopes to have him for one of the games later this week. Those tend to linger so not sure what that does in regards to his chances on making the team. I thought he looked good last Monday so hopefully it heals quickly and he gets another chance. I also wonder if he hurt it during the third period against the Devils. He looked great most of the game but could barely get up the ice on a rush towards the end.

After those two games, expect to see the next round of cuts. I’m not sure how many guys are being cut this time but I can name at least seven who will be included (since they haven’t played a preseason game yet nor look like they are scheduled to). They are Mat Bodie, Tommy Hughes, Chris McCarthy, Jasson Missiaen, Sam Noreau, Nick Tarnasky, and Petr Zamorsky. Not really surprised on any except Bodie. I thought he might get more of a chance. Will be interesting if they include any others. (I have some guesses but not sure how many Vigneault plans to cut so will leave it at seven for the moment.)

Let’s go beat the Flyers!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Get First Preseason Win In Chicago

Whenever the Rangers play the Blackhawks, I get conflicted inside. I make it no secret I love both teams. But when it comes down to it, I bleed blue so while I felt horrible for Crawford tonight and couldn’t understand what Sharp was doing, I am very pleased with the outcome of the game.

The game started off well for the visitors as less than a minute in, Sharp gave the puck away to the Rangers on his own blue line and roughly ten seconds later, Lindberg put it in the back of the net. That play basically described the period as the Blackhawks had a sloppy period and the Rangers looked like the better, more experienced team.

Ten minutes later, the Rangers doubled their lead as Nash found Duclair wide open on the side of the net for his first goal as a Ranger. I don’t think I’ve seen a player smile more than Duclair did after that goal. That was all the Rangers got for the period but they did try to extend their lead. The Blackhawks, on the other hand, didn’t get another shot until the second period.

At that point I knew what to expect in the second period and I was right. The Blackhawks came out flying and the Rangers came out…like it was the second period. Guys, you really need to work on that. You can’t keep skipping the middle frame and hoping everything will be okay.

Lundqvist played half the period and almost got out with the shutout when Lindberg gave the puck away in the neutral zone and the Blackhawks made him pay. I need to see another angle of the replay but it almost looked like McDonagh put it past Lundqvist. I could be wrong on that. Either way, the Blackhawks cut the lead in half and Lundqvist headed to the bench. (It happened at roughly the ten minute mark of the period so Vigneault made the switch then.)

The Rangers woke up for a little bit of the latter part of the period but I would still say the Blackhawks won that period as easily as the Rangers won the first. The two teams played solid but unspectacular in the third period. The difference? The Rangers got two goals while the Blackhawks got none, giving them the victory.

Again, it’s only preseason so I’m not going to recap minute by minute but definitely a solid win considering the roster the Blackhawks used. Their bottom lines might have been kids but their top six were far from it. Preseason or not, the boys should feel good about that win.

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As for players, I can’t really recap everyone like I did Monday night as it’s harder to see guys when watching on TV. There were a few I noticed.

I’ll mention it for the sake of mentioning it but J.T. Miller had another solid game. Again, he probably had a spot before Stepan’s injury so now he definitely has one. I just want to see how he does once he gets it. I don’t think Vigneault will be afraid to send him down in a couple of weeks if he stops playing the way he’s been. My guess is he stays in New York this year.

Other than the giveaway on the Blackhawks first goal, I thought Oscar Lindberg had a very solid game. The battle for that fourth center spot was going to be tough to begin with. Stepan going down gives someone an extra opportunity to prove they belong. Lindberg definitely isn’t hurting his case.

As for surprises, Chris Bourque has a very good shot and isn’t afraid to take it. He might not have scored but he was noticeable. I’m not sure if there is a spot for him but he definitely didn’t hurt himself with his play tonight.

I also was impressed with Marek Hrivik. He wasn’t noticed every shift but when he was involved, you definitely noticed him. And while I don’t expect him to score goals like the one he did tonight often, it was some pretty good coordination on his part. He probably would’ve made the team last year if not for an early injury so I wouldn’t be surprised if he had an inside track with a good camp. The coaching staff is definitely going to have some tough decisions to make up front.

And I can’t not mention Anthony Duclair. The kid definitely didn’t look out of place and had some good chemistry with Nash. He took a bad penalty to start the third but I won’t hold that against him. The thing is I truly believe it doesn’t matter how good he plays, he is still going to be going back to juniors. The Rangers don’t really have a choice because it’s either that or leave him in New York the entire year. And while he looked good tonight, I’m just not sure they are ready to do that. We’ll see how he does in his next game.

I was really hoping to see a lot from Ryan Haggerty but I didn’t. Not sure if he didn’t have a good game or just wasn’t noticeable on TV. I’m really hoping he plays on Monday so I can see him in person. As for defense, Conor Allen had a solid game as I can’t remember any glaring mistakes while Dylan McIlrath still doesn’t look ready. Although he did have a fight and won it easily against a guy who is known for fighting. I’m just not sure on his defensive play.

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And with that, the Rangers get two more practice days before a back-to-back, home and home with the Flyers. Not going to lie, I’m not really looking forward to those games. I just want the Flyers to play hockey and not be stupid but I never know what to expect from that roster.

 

(Photo: Chris Rutsch/flickr)

Rangers Lineup Vs. Blackhawks + Stepan Speaks

Half of the remaining Rangers made their first road trip of the season yesterday when they traveled to Chicago for tonight’s game against the Blackhawks. The lines of those that made the trip will be:

Duclair – Brassard – Nash
C. Bourque – Miller – Zuccarello
Tarnasky – D. Moore – Haggerty
Hrivik – Lindberg – Stempniak

McDonagh – McIlrath
J. Moore – Girardi
Allen – Klein

Lundqvist
Desjardins

You’ll notice three guys on that list who played on Monday – Henrik Lundqvist, John Moore and J.T. Miller. I’m not completely surprised on Miller as he is on a tryout (even though he more or less had a spot before Stepan got hurt so definitely has one now). I’m guessing Lundqvist asked to play another game otherwise that one makes no sense.

But I have nothing on Moore. Why is he playing two games in a row when the team needs to figure out who the seventh defenseman is going to be? He isn’t fighting for a spot. The only thing I could come up with is he is from the area so asked to play. But if that was the case, why did he play on Monday? Oh well, either way we get both Moore’s tonight.

As for the others, I’m really excited to see how Haggerty and that fourth line play up front and what Allen and McIlrath can do on defense. I know others will be watching Duclair but I know he’s going back to juniors so while I want to watch him play, I’m more interested in those actually fighting for a spot.

The Blackhawks are expected to put a pretty good line up out as well with a lot of regulars expected to play so it should be a good game. (Quenneville said the lineup would be similar to the one that played their first preseason game, a.k.a. this roster.)

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The one thing the Rangers will be focusing on tonight is their center situation. Speaking of which, the one who threw it all out of whack spoke yesterday for the first time since he fractured his leg. According to the writers there, he came in with a cast on his leg and crutches but said the good news is that was all he would need for the bone to heal. (Considering the news out of Carolina, Rangers fans definitely can’t complain at the 4 – 6 weeks time frame.)

He also spoke about how the injury happened as well as an update on how long it took his jaw to officially heal. You can see the entire interview here:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=633086&site=rangers

I love how he wasn’t sure the day of game 5. I know every Rangers fan remembers it and I figured he would’ve as well since it was his best friends’ birthday. And while it’s not on video, I loved this quote from him on the jaw recovery:

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I love mac and cheese but couldn’t imagine eating it for a month straight.

Also glad to see him smiling in that video. I’m sure this is tough for him but having the right attitude will definitely help in the recovery. As he mentioned, New York has the best fans and those fans want him to get well soon!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Make First Cuts + Wolfpack Roster

At the start of training camp, the Rangers said they would be making their first cuts after the rookie game played this afternoon. They didn’t mention that rookie game would be against the Devils at their practice facility but they did tell us a game would be played. None of the beat writers were in attendance so there isn’t a lot out there from a Rangers perspective. Sounds like that was a good thing as the kids lost 5-2.

After the game, the first cuts were indeed made as 20 players were cut from the roster and sent to the following places:

To Hartford:

Troy Donnay, Michael Kantor, Nickolas Latta, Paxton Leroux, Chris McCarthy, Richard Nejezchleb, Logan Nelson, Josh Nicholls, Sam Noreau, Mackenzie Skapski, Michael St. Croix, and Andrew Yogan

To their respective junior teams:

Ryan Graves, Brandon Halverson, Keegan Iverson, Ryan Mantha, Adam Tambellini, and Daniel Walcott

Released from their tryouts:

Nathan Burns and Dallas Valentine

There are absolutely no surprises on this list as these are all guys who were on Team C to start. I’m not going to list who is left as it’s basically everyone you’ve heard of or about since camp started. The next round of cuts is where things will start to get interesting. Not that the guys who were fighting for the spot would’ve been early cuts, but if you’re a center, Stepan’s injury definitely helped you to last as long as possible.

After those cuts, the Wolfpack announced their initial roster for their camp which starts on Friday. Their list will obviously change as the Rangers make more changes to their roster. Including the 12 listed above, the Wolfpack’s training camp roster includes 19 forwards, 9 defensemen and 2 goaltenders:

Goal: Jeff Malcolm, Mackenzie Skapski

Defense: Nick Crawford, Troy Donnay, Sean Escobedo, Andrew Himelson, Dallas Jackson, Brandon Martell, Sam Noreau, Steve Spinell, Mikael Tam

Forwards: Tyler Brown, Mike Catenacci, Emerson Clark, Kyle Jean, Michael Kantor, Nick Latta, Paxton Leroux, Chris McCarthy, Pat Mullane, Chad Nehring, Logan Nelson, Richard Nejezchleb, Josh Nicholls, Shawn O’Donnell, Trevor Parkes, Michael St. Croix, Vinny Saponari, Justin Vaive, Andrew Yogan

For those asking why some of those guys weren’t with the Rangers initially, I think it has to do with their contracts. Guys that were on AHL only deals wouldn’t attend the Rangers camp.

I’m going to put another plug for the site here as I am still looking for someone to help cover the Wolfpack this year. If you follow the team and want to write about them, please reach out to me. I really want to get them the coverage they deserve!

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And with that, camp goes on. I’m still processing the disaster that is the Rangers center situation for the first month but at least it isn’t longer.

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I believe the teams practice tomorrow before the guys who didn’t play on Monday head to Chicago for their second preseason game Friday night. Hopefully Patrick Kane will sit that one out. I heard he’s already terrorizing teams…

 

(Photo: Blueshirts United)