The preseason is finally over and not a moment too soon. The Rangers were 4-2 losers to the Flyers at The Garden. It was a reminder of how last season went with them blowing a lead by giving up three unanswered in a one-sided third.
Bad defense. Undisciplined play. Uncharacteristic goaltending with Henrik Lundqvist allowing a softy following a power play that resulted in the final score.
Rather than rehash the negatives in the team finishing exhibition with four straight defeats, let’s accentuate the positives. In tonight’s game, the talented Russian prospect Pavel Buchnevich distinguished himself scoring a goal and assist. Only 21, the former 2013 third round pick who went 75th overall five spots ahead of former Ranger Anthony Duclair, picked a good time to ave a breakout performance.
He entered the contest with an assist thus far. However, coach Alain Vigneault heaped praise on Buchnevich due to him creating scoring chances and looking like he belonged. He liked the skilled rookie’s work on the power play and has continued to try him with proven players.
In the sixth preseason game, he got to play with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. They looked good together with the top unit factoring in on both Ranger goals. The first coming off the slick stick of Buchnevich over three minutes into the first period. He was able to make a nice deflection of a Dan Girardi wrist shot sneaking it past Philly starter Michael Neuvirth. Zibanejad started the play by handing off to Girardi, whose shot was redirected home by a pumped up Buchnevich.
The Flyers came back on the next shift tying the game 27 seconds later. Following an icing, Claude Giroux won a draw and then went to work with Wayne Simmons. The two combined to set up a cutting Mark Streit, who just beat Marc Staal in front and got just enough of the puck to put it past Lundqvist.
Nearly halfway into the second, some nice work by Buchnevich allowed Kreider to walk in and beat Neuvirth with a filthy shot top shelf for a 2-1 lead. Girardi made a good read in the neutral zone passing for Buchnevich, who gained the Flyer zone and made a nice pass across for Kreider, who finished his third of the preseason. He really has looked good. Hopefully, it carries over in the first year of a new contract that pays him an average cap hit of $4.625 million.
Even though they were very bad in the third period allowing the Flyers to score three times with Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek (PPG) and promising Philly prospect Travis Konecny beating Lundqvist, there was another positive to take away.
As a shift finished for the Rangers’ top line, Buchnevich went back at Michael Del Zotto, who gave him a chop. After Radko Gudas intercepted Kevin Klein, Kreider came in and grabbed Gudas and shoved him away. He had some words with him and challenged him. But as both men finally dropped the gloves and were ready to go, the linesmen didn’t allow it. They had already separated them. So, nothing came of it.
It was good to see our team stick together. Especially Kreider showing some leadership by sending a message to Gudas a couple of nights removed from his boarding major that bloodied rookie Jimmy Vesey’s nose. Before the game, Vesey won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award for the Rangers’ top rookie. He scored a goal in the game at the Flyers on Monday.
As for the defense, even though I missed most, I was able to catch the replay. They struggled with broken down coverage in front including leaving Voracek unchecked for an easy power play goal backdoor from Simmonds and Giroux.
There also was a terrible miscommunication between Adam Clendening and Kevin Klein causing a awful turnover. Zibanejad and Miller had brutal giveaways that led directly to Konecny’s goal with him beating Lundqvist from a horrible angle. Even Sam Rosen thought he saved it only to be shocked it went in. That followed a power play that moved the puck well and caused dangerous chances but didn’t capitalize.
The power play looks like it’ll be better. Zibanejad is dangerous from the off wing with his right-handed one-timer. Pirri was tried on the same unit from the left side and nearly scored. Kreider looks more aggressive. You wonder what’ll be with Clendening, who is an asset as a righty on the left point who is pass first. Are they gonna go with eight D or 14 forwards? More on that in another post.
Notes: Josh Jooris returned for his second game and took 18 shifts including 2:17 shorthanded. … Cristoval Nieves made his first appearance centering a checking line going 4-for-10 on face-offs with three shots in 17 shifts (14:17). He also got 1:51 on the PK. A former 2012 second round pick who spent four years at Michigan before going 2-3-5 in eight games with Hartford last Spring, Nieves will start his first pro year with the Wolf Pack.