The new look Rangers dropped the preseason opener last night, 2-1 to the Boston Bruins. The score isn’t really telling of the game itself, in which the Rangers dominated the third period, when Boston looked gassed and unable to keep up with the Blueshirts. John Tortorella has already put his stamp on this team, as the puck movement, scoring chances, and powerplay all seemed to be a major improvement from last year, even if it was just for one game.
At even strength, the Rangers showcased what looks to be their bread and butter play, which is cycling the puck along the boards, maintaining possession, and finding the open man in the high slot for a quick shot on net. Sure, there were some miscues, but that should be expected from the first preseason game, with 50% of the roster bound for Hartford to start the season. Donald Brashear was a pleasant surprise on the ice, as he showed why GM Glen Sather chose him over the departed Colton Orr.
The powerplay, while putting up a goose egg, was also a nice surprise, with Ales Kotalik at the point. Kotalik has a cannon, and when he hits the net, will be the center of attention for opposing penalty killers. The other stand out on the powerplay was highly touted Michael Del Zotto, who showed great poise while quarterbacking the powerplay, and rang one off the post off a feed from Evgeny Grachev. Del Zotto showed why he is so highly touted, and if he keeps up his play, the Rangers will be hard pressed not to keep him around when the season starts.
The Rangers lone goal came from Christopher Higgins, who buried a rebound off an Alexei Semenov shot, which came in low and hard, exactly how it should be. If the Ranger defense can get their shots through low and on net, expect to see plenty of rebound goals, especially with the likes of Higgins, Chris Drury, and Ryan Callahan patrolling the area around the crease. If Matt Maccarone was able to lift the puck in the second, the outcome of the game would have been different.
There was one particular play that drew my ire, and that was the goalie interference call on Callahan in the third period. Right now, it looks like if you bump the goalie, regardless of the circumstances, you will get called for a penalty. This play was in no way Callahan’s fault, as he was being defended, and tried to avoid Boston goalie Tuuka Rask, who played a brilliant game. This call should be referee’s judgment, and if a player makes a solid attempt to get out of the way, no call should be made. It’s hockey, the goalie is going to get bumped.
The Rangers youngsters, including Matt Gilroy, who turned in a good game, played a solid game last night. We all know what the veterans are capable of, and preseason is the time to watch these youngsters showcase their talent. If last night showed us anything, it’s that Gilroy and Del Zotto are going to be solid players.