When the lineup for the Devils game was announced this weekend, it was a very well thought out decision by Alain Vigneault and his staff to ensure that the second of the back-to-backs would feature tough guys like Haley, Dorsett, McIlrath, and Kantor to nullify any of the shenanigans the Flyers always seem to be up to five decades later no matter how many skill players they have in their lineup. That toughness would be needed tonight against the likes of Hartnell, Simmonds, Newbury, etc.
Also, after Monday night’s Devils broadcast, having Sam back is such a relief and always makes me appreciate how great Sam and Joe Micheletti are. Yes it’s not the classic Dynamic Duo of Sam and JD, and Sam isn’t as sharp as he once was, plus Joe has some quirks, but they’re still better than 90 percent of the announcing teams in the league, and to Rangers fans Sam Rosen is and has been the modern Mel Allen, the other male voice in our households for nearly 30 years.
1) The skill and pace of this game was much more apparent than Monday night with players like Brassard, Pouliot, Zuccarello, Fast, and Lindberg in the lineup. Much more up tempo and much more time spent in the opponent’s zone.
2) The Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello line looks to have chemistry and is one that might stay together to start the season until Callahan and Hagelin are back. Not sure if that’s a line that can hold up size and toughness wise over an 82-game grind and perhaps after, but for now, use it while it’s hot.
3) The first period was the Jesper Fast Show; A little bit of Hagelin with his speed, and a little bit of Callahan with his tenacity. He always wanted the puck or to get involved. Great power play passing as well. Like Joe said, if he can find ways to stay moving and avoid hits like that scary knee-on-knee (which luckily wasn’t serious), he can be a real x-factor on this team whether now or later.
4) Anton Stralman skating, passing, and defending as if he’s in midseason form. In the new NHL it’s very important to find young cheap free agents that other organizations have given up on like the Matt Moulsons and Marc Methots and to develop them as part of a core. The once unemployed Stralman is now an essential cog on the Rangers blue line.
5) Seasons change and friendships and relationships might come and go but in life there are four constants; life, death, taxes, and Kris Newbury taking one silly penalty per game.
6) The Adventures of Dylan McIlrath: While he did stick up for Fast after the knee-on-knee and did get the assist on Pouliot’s game winning goal, he also had some blunders (timing and puck confidence wise) like turning the puck over on the Maxim Talbot goal, and mis-timing a pinch and later a hip check along the boards. One game doesn’t mean it’s all over for him and people shouldn’t start bringing up Cam Fowler and Vladimir Tarasenko … again, but it’s going to take him some time, maybe even a full year before he even gets a cup of coffee as an NHLer.
7) There once was a young skilled center on the Rangers, a former 12th overall pick named Dave Gagner (Oilers’ Sam Gagner’s dad for you younger fans) who just never really fit in or had his talents flourish while on Broadway. A change of scenery and fresh start in Minnesota led him to reach his potential. It’s still very VERY early but maybe 25 years later and we are seeing a similar story for Derick Brassard who has unlimited skills as showcased on the first goal, and his pass to McIlrath on Pouliot’s game winner.
8) The “Other” Rangers kids: Connor Allen played a solid and unspectacular game as he had in Traverse City and the training camp scrimmage which for a D-man is a very good thing. Keep an eye on his development this year in Hartford. Nice rush up the ice which led to Yogan’s shot on the Daroll “Lives To Fight Another Day” Powe goal (!!!!!). Yogan had some nice board work and skates well for a big man. He’s slowly (two to three more years perhaps) developing into what might be a third-line power forward.
9) Oscar Lindberg didn’t stand out offensively as much as Fast did, but as the game went on he was much more comfortable and generated some nice passes and scoring chances. Well done on the faceoffs as advertised, and he also made a huge play when he barely (but enough) raised Hartnell’s stick for what could have been a game-tying goal. The longer the Stepan saga continues, the more likely he’s on the opening night roster against the team that drafted him, the Phoenix (soon to be Arizona) Coyotes.
10) The whole hybrid icing incident was pretty comical with Vinny Lecavalier being confused, chirping at the ref, the crowd booing, and then the refs “correcting” the mistake and having the faceoff at center ice. They’ll get there and eventually we will see it become a regular part of the game. It’s as weird now as more penalties called and trapezoid were in 2005-06, but we’ve all grown used to that over time.
11) Another solid all around game for Dominic Moore who does all the little things. He’s going to be very valuable to the Rangers and be able to bounce up and down the lineup playing either center or wing and be placed in all kinds of situations especially late with a one-goal lead.
12) Neither Biron nor Talbot was that busy, but they made the saves they had to make, especially Talbot’s on Voracek. Will be very interesting to see the goalie rotation next week with four games in five nights and if the performance tonight puts any pressure on Hedberg.
13) While not in top notch form especially on the power play, to steal a line or two from Carp, Ryan McDonagh=monster, especially dealing with Hartnell all night, and Girardi=beast.
14) Something just isn’t right seeing Vinny Lecavelier wearing No. 40. It almost feels like an All-Star Game or charity event.
1. Derick Brassard-A goal, an assist, and great offensive vision.
2. Anton Stralman-Midseason form and proving why he’s one of the NHL’s most underrated DMen.
3. Benoit Pouliot-Game winning goal and great all around skill and speed to compliment Brassard and Zuccarello.
Honorable Mention: The two Swedes and MZA
Photos by Getty Images.