Well done yesterday by Lowell, who provided some great analysis on our tops guys, and stole some of my thunder in the process. Building on that, here are some thoughts from the Rangers final match of pool play on Tuesday.
o The Rangers lost 4-3 in overtime in a pretty underwhelming effort from most of the top guys. Carolina won it on a Justin Shugg goal during 3-on-3 in the second overtime period. More on that later.
o What can be said collectively about the group is that the passing, puck possession and decision making has been a mark ahead of all three opponents thus far, regardless of the bonus point loss tonight.
o Everyone’s favorite new All-Star Tim Erixon probably had his worst game of the tournament so far, but nonetheless has looked like an NHL player overall. I don’t have the stats, but he and Captain Dylan McIlrath seemed to play a ton of minutes again. During one forgettable shift, both were caught out of position leaving Scott Pitt open in the slot for the first Carolina tally. It should be noted how great Erixon has been on the power play. He has solid vision, and isn’t afraid to shoot the biscuit. He also took a penalty in the first period which was called a “hook.” Really he was just battling his man hard in front and outmuscled him to the ground. Good for him.
o Some attention should be paid to Jonathan Audy-Marchessault. Not because he is tied for the tournament lead in scoring, but because he’s had limited ice time in the process (or at least it seems).
o Shane McColgan was impressive again. I really had no idea what this guy was about heading into the tournament but he’s been fun to watch. He’s a small 18-year-old kid who had another strong game on the forecheck and tallied a couple points in the process.
o Ryan Bourque has been great so far in the tournament, but couldn’t get going tonight. I actually forgot he was playing until he drove hard to the net and drew a great penalty with three minutes to go. He has excellent speed and is a pretty solid two way player with some raw skills.
o Aside from one mistake Christian Thomas had a strong game, particularly in the first period. He directly led to the second Rangers goal with a hard forecheck and turnover in the offensive zone, and then sniped one past the Carolina goaltender with less than a second left in the period. Unfortunately his only real blunder cost the Rangers the game. In overtime Thomas gained the offensive zone, stopped, and attempted to make a cross ice pass–one that he fanned on leading to the game winning breakaway goal. Regardless, I’ve really taken a liking to this guy over the last three games. The son of former NHLer Steve Thomas spoke with Dave Maloney moments after his goal and said his father had great words for the Rangers “organ-eye-zation.” Hard to believe considering he played for the Devils and Islanders through the majority of the 90’s.
o Carolina’s Jared Staal looked really good out there. He lacks the natural offensive talent Eric and Jordan have, but takes the body well, and is really strong on his skates.
o Speaking of the Staals: Henry Staal was on air live in the third period. When asked which son is the “meanest,” he came back with a gem. He said Eric is probably the meanest, Marc is “sneaky mean,” paused a minute, then said “Jordan isn’t mean enough — It’s his moms fault.” Classic. Never gets old hearing from a guy who helped procreate four pros.
o The power play has looked pretty solid, with the usual suspects you’d expect on the ice for most of them. Much like the big club, this team hasn’t been the greatest at planting bodies in front of the net, which is particularly frustrating for me. Through three games the power play is 5 for 21.
o Our behemoth goaltending prospect, Jason Missiaen, was fun to watch. He had a fairly average day, but came up with his fair share of strong stops. He looked a bit shaky and off his angle at times, but is a pretty raw talent considering his size and age. He looked quite athletic and is also pretty sound down low, which is saying something for a 6’8” guy. When he’s down in the butterfly he looks as tall as Darren Pang did standing up.
o Michael St. Croix has probably been the Rangers best two-way player in the tournament. Kid plays hard, wins battles, and in Tuesday’s game alone made a couple of great defensive plays on the backcheck, all good signs for a centerman prospect.
o Much like the first match on Saturday, I thought JT Miller was average. He allowed an easy 2 on 1 opportunity to slide off his stick, and wasn’t much to speak of in terms of the two-way game and has a long way to go. A bright spot occurred in third period when he stuck up for Tim Erixon when he was dropped after the whistle. It was an uneventful fight, but good stuff. This tournament has been my only opinion of JT, and he doesn’t seem to have the greatest raw skill and hands in the world. He is however extremely strong on the puck in corners and works hard in the offensive zone. He keeps possession well down low, is 6’1” 190 lbs and only 18 years old.
o Maybe it’s the cameras inside the room, or the fact it’s just a prospects tournament, but Ken Gernander seems like a calm and composed guy — an interesting contrast to the guy behind the big club’s bench. Overall he seems to have good hockey sense, gets right to the point, and works well with young guys. Good stuff for Hartford. Reminds me of watching Dan Bylsma on HBO last year.
o Echoing Lowell’s thoughts from the other day, you’d have to think with all the assets on the blueline some type of deal is at least going to be discussed in the front office. I’d like to see a repeat effort from Sauer and McDonagh through the first few months before we decide to do something. Many of us were probably thinking the same thing a year ago with the assumption Del Zotto wouldn’t have the lack of progress he did.
o Regardless of the outcome, The Rangers knew they would play in tonight’s championship against Buffalo. Perhaps this contributed to the sluggish effort. Staal, Dubinsky, Anisimov and Sauer were on the squad the last time we won it in 2007.
o With the score tied 3-3 after regulation, the teams played one overtime period of 4-on-4 hockey, and then one period 3-on-3. Both periods were four minutes long. Apparently the extra minute would have been too taxing. The 3-on-3 play was absolutely ridiculous, and I hope the league is not considering actually bringing it to the NHL.
o Towards the end of the game the whole Buffalo Sabres prospect team was watching behind the Rangers goal dressed only in lowers. Pretty old school.
o In between periods MSG aired a clip in which John Giannone interviewed Glen Sather on a local Traverse City golf course. I’m not kidding, the majority of Glen’s comments were about the golf course.