Rangers 5, Islanders 2.
1) Saw a lot of good things. Some not great things. But, man, this team is quicker and this team is potentially more skilled. I will say this many times in the coming weeks: I think this could be among the top teams in the East … but that depends on the returning guys having better years. And you know the list. If they don’t it won’t matter how much new skill and speed they brought in.
2) One of those is Chris Kreider, who sounds determined, looks determined, has had a strong camp and a really superb first game. My first star.
3) Kreider’s goal was a ricochet shot, but another indicator of what can happen when you fire it and when you have somebody in front. How many times last year did they refuse to shoot that puck, looking for fancy-boy passes instead?
4) “I think the play leading up to that where I tried to kick it out of the corner and take it to the net, it’s something I’m definitely focusing on, something that I need to do more of,” Kreider said. “It’s not just taking it to the net off of the rush, it’s out of the corners. It’s just getting to that point. I think everything kind of develops because we do a good job of working it down low and taking pucks to the net and they crash and everything just opens up from there. It was a great play by the D too, Bodes (Bodie) and Clendening both moved the puck really well.”
5) Early second, Marc Staal went for the long change and Bernier would have been in alone, but Kreider used his third gear to chase him down and break up the play. I thought Kreider was pretty fabulous throughout. It was his screen on the Dylan McIlrath goal.
6) McIlrath scored a goal on another booming shot, and these games are really important for him. I thought he was pretty good overall, but he had some bad moments. He wandered out of position on the uncontested goal by Jason Chimera early. Also took a minor penalty. And fell down to create a 2-on-1. And, yeah, I’m going to be accused of hating the kid or only pointing out his shortcomings. When the real point is, he’s got to be a lot better if he’s going to earn a top-six spot.
7) Uncontested goal. Where have we heard that before? On the other hand, Chimera might as well wear No. 99 when he plays the Rangers.
8) Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich made the power play look good. Brandon Pirri and Adam Clendening, too.
9) Zibanejad buried an absolute rocket of a one-timer from Alex Ovechkin’s office, and that, kids, is why you need a right-handed shooter on the power play. Last year that need was so deep that for a while they had Dan Boyle playing the Ovechkin spot on the PP. And for a while it actually worked.
10) Asked if it was nice to score a goal in his first game, Zibanejad had a simple answer: “Who doesn’t want to score? I think everyone you ask wants to get a good start, especially with a new team. It’s still the first game so you don’t want to think that highly about it, but it’s obviously nice to get a good start.”
11) The kid’s been electric throughout camp, and while it’s only camp, the sessions have been played at a high pace. He’s shown a ton of skill and speed and a great shot … and he fancies himself a two-way center. He also said he didn’t think he got everything on the shot on which he scored.
12) Max Lapierre, the rat, is wearing Stu Bickel’s number. And how about Tanner Glass wearing an ‘A’? Played 19:43 last night. Team high among forwards. Didn’t take any dumb penalties. 11-9 on draws.
13) Mid-first, Brady Skjei is caught up near the top of the circle, Dan Girardi slides across to help, nobody covers for Girardi and Eric Boulton walks in for a wrister all alone in the slot. Eric. Boulton. How does that happen? I mean, the guy won’t play five NHL games this season and is an extinct dinosaur as a fighter. And Magnus Hellberg had to bail them out. Not a stellar game for that D-pair. Skjei and Girardi each took a pair of penalties. I didn’t mind Girardi’s too much because they were aggressive penalties.
14) Girardi went a whole period without being dinged up. Then early second he took one off the kneecap. The right kneecap. The one he cracked last season. Girardi said he had a moment of fear, then realized he was OK. Then he scored from 7th Avenue, Dustin Johnson territory.
15) Mat Bodie showed some wheels. Not sure if he’s strong enough yet. Maybe he is. And Clendening (two assists) showed a pretty decent shot and some calmness on the power-play point. “I think my job is to come here and move the puck, create some offense and shoot the puck,” Clendening, a righty, said. “I think I did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
16) I did think the Rangers were tying up men in front to a greater degree than they did most of last season. The Jeff Beukeboom influence?
17) Marek Hrivik had a 2-on-none with Jensen. Shot it and was stopped by J.F. Berube. Not sure he knew it was 2-on-none, because that’s one case where you go wide and look to pass through the slot for the dunk.
18) I thought Pirri displayed a lot of why the Rangers signed him. Good offensive instincts, willingness to shoot, willingness to go to net. The Rangers need shooters. (Have we mentioned that before?). Terrific shot on his power-play goal. Question with him is, and will be, can he do anything positive away from the puck? Or at least, not too much negative? Or can he provide enough offense to off-set what deficiency he might have? Or can AV and the coaches teach him to be better away from the puck?
19) Speaking of which, AV said this about Buchnevich: “The skill set we’ve all talked about since the start of camp, you saw it tonight. He’s a young player going through the process and hopefully he’ll continue to improve.” I mentioned that because some of you guys constantly misinterpret every time he uses the word “process.”
20) Not a good Game 7 for the Islanders.
21) There was some serious security outside the Garden last night. (photo above right) Or maybe it was the Islanders’ new mascot: Tank.
22) Preseason games are great for watching newcomers and rookies and such. But, man, they are awful hockey games. I started checking out with 47 minutes left.
23) A kid in camp, Philip McRae, is the son of Basil McRae, the ex-St. Louis tough guy now working for Columbus, I believe. Philip survived the first cut. I remember Basil cleverly getting Adam Graves tossed out of a game in the opening minutes by punching Mark Messier. Graves jumped in. Instant ejection.
24) Hartford could be pretty good this year once the Rangers finish making their cuts. Gonna be some skilled players going down.
25) A girl behind me in the train on the way home set a world record for “likes” in a sentence, then broke her own record several times. She literally said, “I literally died.” Millenials. Ninety-nine percent of them give the rest a bad name. Relax, youngsters. It’s a joke.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Chris Kreider.
2. Mika Zibanejad.
3. Adam Clendening.
Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Mika Zibanejad.
2. Chris Kreider.
3. Brandon Pirri.
Photos by the Associated Press.
Tank photo by Rick Carpiniello/The Journal News.