(Editor’s note: Is it really 20 years since this? October 4, 1991: Mark Messier, traded to NY Rangers by Edmonton with future considerations (Jeff Beukeboom for David Shaw, November 12, 1991) for Bernie Nicholls, Steven Rice and Louie DeBrusk and a big, giant bag of cash, October 4, 1991.)
The Rangers wrapped up their 2011 preseason campaign with an ugly 8-4 loss over EV Zug at raucous Bossard Arena in Zug, Switzerland. The tilt ended a four-game in five-day through four countries road trip for the Red, White and Blueshirts.
1) A wild first period saw six tallies. Zug jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead off a PPG goal by Pirnes and a real bad softie allowed by Biron from a long high shot by Camichel. However, Captain Cally cut the lead to 2-1 with a tip in goal from Dubinsky. Then, the four-forward PP reared its ugly head when former NHL first-rounder Josh Holden scored a SHG on a move around Richards. The Rangers fought back scoring twice in the final 1:12 with goals by Rupp, using a great deflection of a MDZ shot set up by MZA. Then, Anisimov continued his great camp with a beautiful 1 on 3 goal to tie it up.
2) Things settled down in the second until a failed PP by the NYR opened the door for Zug to score two goals. Bickel got beat to the slot by former NHLer Glen Metropolit who tipped in a goal. Immediately following, Zug scored using the big ice for a set play out of the corner as Holden scored his second of the game beating Eminger and Del Zotto to the front of the net. Feds made it 5-4 on a rebound from an Anisimov rush. Artie, who is having a great camp, was their best player in Zug
3) Clearly, mentally and physically tired, the third period was a defensive mess. Goals by Pirnes on a breakaway beating Bickel and Bell through the middle and Brunner who scored on a 2 on 1 after a botched pinch by Del Zotto and Eminger led to a 7-4 lead. Following the play, Torts talked with MDZ. With 4:45 left in the game, Torts went with an empty net that lead to an easy Schneider ENG.
4) The prominent story in the early stages of this season will be on D as stalwart (pun intended) blueliner Marc Staal remains a huge question mark. Staal will remain home until the team returns from Europe. They didn’t want to risk 12 hours of flying for two games. Remember, they are off an entire week when they get back and there is no air travel to the Coliseum where they play on the 15th.
5) The issues on defense continue. Michael Sauer was scratched and unable to compete in Switzerland. Still recovering from a shoulder injury after an earlier knee issue, Sauer might fall behind. It is difficult for most young sophomore D-men to continue progressing each year and this stuttered start makes it even more daunting. Look for them to do something about the lack of depth on the back end.
6) The guy that will be happiest seeing Stockholm, Sweden on Tuesday is John Tortorella. It’s hard playing all these preseason games in a row to work on the nuances of the game like special teams play. After a mental health day on Tuesday, expect Wednesday and Thursday, especially after this one, to be long practices filled with lots of power play work and video sessions. As for that PP, the five forward alignment is very dangerous in both senses of the word especially when Brad Richards, not known for his defensive work, is on the point. I think that experiment lasts until a key shorthanded goal is scored.
7) Martin Biron didn’t play his best game ever but nonetheless, if both men stay healthy, the goaltending position will once again be the rock of this team. Biron is the perfect backup to the self-demanding, extremely serious King Henry. Biron is one of the funniest men in the NHL, a good teammate, and most importantly ready to go at any time. With Biron on the bench, Torts feels comfortable playing for the long haul and resting Hank when needed. I think there will be a three-four game stretch at some point this season when Biron will be hot and allowed to play consecutive games and win.
8) Thought on Sean Avery/Eric Christensen battle. Very interesting that Sean Avery was once again scratched for this final preseason game. With final cuts coming 3 PM Wednesday, it’s important to know that the team confirmed (meaning they wanted it public) it was a healthy scratch not an injury. Is this a sign of the future salary cut paring of the Grate One? Christensen at $925K is cheaper, better in the shootout and more flexible as a LW/C. The difference of a million dollars could bring back the defensive depth they are clearly looking for.
9) Interesting debate by fans over the impact of playing non-NHL competition on Olympic size rinks in preparation for the upcoming season. Pro: Avoid some of the nonsense that takes place in preseason when AHL players looking to make a name for themselves cause unnecessary fights and make illegal hits. Con: Coaching staff will need to snap this team to attention this week before the games vs. Anaheim and Los Angeles. Also, jet lag and tired legs could become an issue to watch.
10) Kudos to Rangers equipment and training staff members Cas Marques, Jason Levy, Jim Ramsey, Bruce Lifrieri, Reg Grant and the rest of their crew for their tireless efforts and organization to make the road trip as smooth as possible for the players. As a former NHL PR member myself, I know how hard long road trips can be normally on them let alone when it’s in multiple countries on consecutive days.
11) Loved the atmosphere in these European League Arenas. The different rhythmic cheering, singing, and drums all add to the excitement of the game. However, hockey is difficult enough to follow on television and with all the painted advertising they allow directly on the ice it makes it even harder to follow the puck and play.
12) Lastly, I want to thank Rick for allowing me to babysit the blog for today’s game. I love having the opportunity to write about the best sport in the World. Oh, and follow me on twitter at @HWirth.