A two game sample size is hardly enough to evaluate anyone, and clearly none of the Rangers played particularly well in the season’s opening weekend, but here are some initial impressions of the newest Blueshirts:
Rick Nash – As coach John Tortorella said following Sunday’s game, “he’s the real deal.” Nash has been an absolute puck magnet, has already displayed soft hands and creative stickhandling, is using his body extremely well to create separation between the puck and defenders and has even thrown a few solid hits. Nash understandably wants to make a good impression with his new club, but I’ve also been pleased to see that he’s continued competing very hard in both losing efforts.
Arron Asham – Asham has only played one game thus far thanks to a carryover suspension, but he was pretty much as billed in his first match against the Penguins. Asham was sent out for the opening faceoff and immediately got into a pretty spirited fight with Tanner Glass. Asham only played 5:53 on Sunday, so we can’t glean much else, but I do think he’s a better skater than the Rangers often have in the bottom-six.
Taylor Pyatt – I’ve been extremely disappointed in Pyatt’s speed; I’d seen plenty of scouting reports touting his wheels and he’s been one of the slower Blueshirts out there. Pyatt did score a goal on Sunday and seems to have pretty solid hockey sense; he’s been in perfect position on several occasions and already seems to have earned some level of trust from Tortorella. I expect Pyatt to play with everyone from Richards and Nash to Asham and Rupp before the season’s over.
Chris Kreider – Yes, he counts. Kreider seems bound for some AHL seasoning if his play doesn’t improve. He’s completely lost defensively and isn’t playing with much confidence after a very poor start to the year with the CT Whale. I’m not too worried about Kreider’s offensive game given the incredible showing he delivered in the postseason, but Kreider’s all-around game is a mess right now.
Jeff Halpern – He’s 36, but it looks like Halpern still has plenty of game left. It’s already clear that he’s going to be important in the faceoff circle and he’s also going to be a trusted penalty killer. I really liked what I saw of Halpern and Mike Rupp together, I’d bet on those two staying together for most of the year. They play simple games that compliment each other well, nothing fancy, but they know their roles. You get the sense that we’ll know what we’re going to get from Halpern every night.