Mika Zibanejad celebrates with Lias Andersson. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy NHL.com.
On a night some kids were still looking to make last impressions, it was the Swedish veterans who got it done. Henrik Lundqvist and Mika Zibanejad led them to a nice 2-1 preseason win over the Flyers in the shootout.
Going all the way, Lundqvist was sharp throughout stopping 32 of 33 shots including all three Flyer shooters. He definitely looks ready to go, earning the game’s first star, and leaving the ice with a grin.
Mika Zibanejad got the only goal in the shootout. Following a strong pad stop from Lundqvist on impressive Flyers rookie Joel Farabee, out came number 93. He flew in on Carter Hart and went to a nice deke, backhand top shelf inside the crossbar in the bottom of the third.
It wasn’t a Picasso or Renoir. The play was very choppy in the first two periods. There were a lot of icings and offsides. The third was better with the Rangers controlling much of the action. They created some good opportunities, but Hart had himself a good night as well.
The only goals in regulation came from Lias Andersson and Travis Konecny. Andersson continued his strong preseason with his hustle leading to him batting a puck in on a play set up from Tony DeAngelo, who had a very good game. He missed the first four due to signing late. He was superb throughout while teaming with Marc Staal, who had a solid night. They will likely be paired again to start the season, leaving Libor Hajek and Adam Fox as the third pair.
Brady Skjei had a good game. He played with Brendan Smith, who was surprisingly good even getting a couple of scoring chances. They both skated well with Skjei in particular making good defensive plays and creating offense.
Jacob Trouba was with Hajek, who struggled on one particular shift. He is a key to the revamped blueline. If he has issues, Ryan Lindgren can always come up and play. Trouba was physical and made some nice reads. He is going to do well.
In terms of two young forwards to watch, Vitali Kravtsov had a better game than Filip Chytil. They got to play with Zibanejad and were fairly quiet the first half. Playing back on the right wing, Chytil didn’t distinguish himself, even taking a lazy offensive zone minor penalty.
Meanwhile, Kravtsov got better in the third and was rewarded with an overtime shift. He got to play with Chris Kreider and Skjei. The combination nearly ended it. Kravtsov was in on Hart, but fanned on the shot. He also nearly had Kreider for the winner on a quick pass and one-timer.
I know he’s only 19. But I like what I’ve seen from Kravtsov. Chytil just hasn’t had a good camp. He looks off. Maybe they should send him down to Hartford and keep Kravtsov up. He can start on a third line with likely candidates Brett Howden and Vladislav Namestnikov. I wonder if the organization would rather get Kravtsov time in Hartford and hope Chytil finds his game. He has a season under his belt.
Andersson has definitely earned a spot by being more physical and active on the forecheck and responsible defensively. He lost some weight. It shows as he is faster to the puck and winning battles. You could make a case for him centering the third line. But I like the chemistry he has with Brendan Lemieux and believe Jesper Fast is a good fit on a checking line.
The coaching staff can always interchange depending how both Howden and Andersson are doing.
Kaapo Kakko played with Ryan Strome and Kreider mostly on the second line. The trio improved over the night. Their best shift was a good cycle where Strome held the puck and made a couple of good centering feeds for open teammates. For a guy who doesn’t play center a lot, he sure makes smart reads.
The Flyers goal came off a very good pass from Kevin Hayes. He was able to send the puck across with it banking off Konecny’s skate and then Staal. I’m not sure how Hayes got the puck over there. But he was a pain in the ass all night and his team’s best player. If preseason is an early indication, Hayes could become a Ranger killer. I already refer to him as Kevin BLEEPING Hayes.
Both goalies were superb throughout. While there weren’t a lot of highlight reel saves, Lundqvist got across on one and denied a Michael Raffl bid with a quick glove preventing a goal. He definitely looked like the old Henrik we’ve become accustomed to. Encouraging.
There were a couple of early scraps including Lemieux and Sean Couturier going at it until Brendan’s helmet came off. Vinni Lettieri was challenged by Scott Laughton due to him accidentally interfering with Hart. That was nothing much.
You also had Raffl take a cheap shot on Lettieri by taking out his legs before a face-off. DeAngelo had words for him. It was stupid. That’s the Flyers for you.
The best part of the shootout was when Kakko came out for the second shot. The crowd made tons of noise in hopes he would score. He made a great move and had Hart beat, but sent his backhand off the side of the net. Maybe next week when it starts up for real.
Farabee, who Lundqvist stoned, hit two posts during play. He’s the same age (19) as Kravtsov. He looks good. I think you’ll be seeing more of him even if it’s not right away.
Sam and Joe couldn’t wait for this one to end. It went long and it’s preseason. Can you blame them? Micheletti even quipped they should pull both goalies with eight minutes left in regulation.
Greg McKegg had another nice showing even creating a shorthanded bid for Boo Nieves, who couldn’t quite finish. I think McKegg makes it as the 13th forward. He knows how to play and is a good guy to have on a young roster.
The final preseason game is at Bridgeport on Saturday versus the Islanders. By then, we should have a good idea what the roster will look like.
My guess for Opening Night:
That would be 21 players. So, they can keep up to 23. Maybe it’s Ryan Lindgren as number 22 if they go with 7 D. If not, then it’s Nieves which means 14 F. Unless they decide to keep Kravtsov. You know how I feel. He deserves to make it.
Igor Shesterkin will be reassigned to Hartford on Saturday. Georgiev is expected to get the whole game at the Isles.
That’s all for now. I got a Fantasy Hockey Draft tomorrow night. That should be fun.