Flyers 4, Rangers 3 (OT)
1) The best thing you can say about these preseason games is that there are only two more of them.
2) I hadn’t been to the Arena that Changes Names Every Five Minutes in a while (probably two or three names ago). Hadn’t been there since the Olli Jokinen game (and a Torts pre-game meltdown). Before that, last time I was there, Bryan Trottier was the coach.
3) Always love the Lauren Hart anthems.
4) And some things haven’t changed in 50 years of Flyers hockey. No matter who is or isn’t in the lineup (Zac Rinaldo long gone, Wayne Simmonds scratched … I saw him in the pressbox). Though most of the Flyers no longer play that way. Hardly any, in fact.
5) But Radko Gudas, made Teflon by the NHL Department of Not Giving a Flying You-Know-What About Head Injuries (NHLDONGAFYKWAHI), will maim somebody some day. He will. You know, the guy who blasted and concussed Viktor Stalberg last season, and who blasted Mika Zibanejad in the head in Ottawa last season. And who escaped punishment more times than I can count.
6) Gudas is among the filthiest players in the game, and that hit on Jimmy Vesey in the first period was absolutely as filthy as it gets, right in the numbers, dangerous and vulnerable distance from the boards, and you could argue a head shot to boot. He certainly drove Vesey’s face into the glass. He’s a repeat offender because of the Zibanejad hit and suspension. He’ll probably get three games, two in the preseason. I won’t be surprised, based on history, if he gets less. Or none. What a joke.
7) Meanwhile, what was that about the Rangers needing a guy like Dylan McIlrath to prevent stuff like that? Um. No. Same with Matt Beleskey when he broke Derek Stepan’s ribs last Black Friday. McIlrath was on the ice for both. Not blaming him whatsoever. Just saying, with few exceptions, he cannot deter the dirty stuff by being on the ice.
8) Now, if you want revenge, that’s another story. So McIlrath goes after Gudas immediately – good for him. I completely applaud that. Jakub Voracek tackles McIlrath, who gets two for instigating, five for fighting and a misconduct … even though there WAS NO FIGHT! Gudas also got a fighting major. And if our fine, fine NHL officials deemed that to be a fight, then Voracek has to get a third-man-in, no? I mean, that’s the very definition of third-man-in … if that was a fight. Asinine.
9) Vesey had words with the Flyers bench on his way off the ice, and returned in the second. Good for him. Said he was fine, other than a sore nose. Didn’t go through concussion protocol. Only would say that he thought the right call was made.
10) Alain Vigneault said, “I’ve seen that hit many times before, from that player. I’ll just leave it at that.”
11) Henrik Lundqvist. Saw some shots, in terms of numbers, but really didn’t face any of the mayhem and uncontested chances he saw the last time he was on the ice in that uniform.
12) Meant to mention this yesterday. In practice, you can just tell that Lundqvist is different, and obviously better, than the other goalies. He is more competitive on each shot than any of the others. It’s do-or-die on every puck that comes his way. And of course he stops more of those practice shots than the others, too.
13) “Everybody knows the quality of the goaltender that Hank is, the example that he is as far as the preparation and the work he likes to do,” Vigneault said about having him back. “So obviously it’s a benefit to our whole group; it’s a benefit to our young goaltenders to see a goaltender like that and what he does to be at the top of his game. So from that standpoint, I think it’s going to be beneficial to our whole group to have him around.”
14) Maxim Lapierre took a hooking penalty (only his third minor in four games), because he couldn’t keep up, the Flyers got a sixth skater onto the ice, and Jordan Weal scored the first goal of the in the second period before the whistle blew.
15) Then Vesey took a questionable penalty, and J.T. Miller, on the penalty kill, earned a double-minor with a stick to Voracek’s face, and the Flyers cashed both ends of the two-man power play, one squirting through MacKenzie Skapski’s pads, the other off his skate after he was forced to flail on the ice by a very 2015-16-ish penalty kill.
16) If the PK doesn’t scare you yet – if you’re waiting for the full lineups to panic – you’re forgiven, because it’s difficult to draw conclusions with the mixed personnel they are using right now. But if you are scared already, that’s OK too.
17) Ryan Graves, trying to make an impression, scored through Marek Hrivik’s screen to cut it to 3-1.
18) Brandon Pirri sniped another one, off the Kostka by Samuel Morin. He was brought here to shoot it and he has shot it, and he has scored four times in three games. So put him on the opening roster, and probably in the opening-night lineup. …
19) … But “there’s no doubt that he’s got a knack to find the net and score,” Vigneault said. “Tonight he scored a big goal for us. But there’s other areas where I need to be sure he’s going to be able to make the play – get the puck out, be strong on the wall, and tonight in certain areas he needed to make a better play. But there’s no doubt offensively that he’s got good hands and he can find the back of the net.”
20) Then Derek Stepan, in his preseason debut, picked off a terrible pass by Steve Mason, tried to throw it in front, hit Michael Del Zotto’s skate and came right back to Stepan, who set up Vesey cutting to the net for his first goal of the preseason … and probably clinching the Lars-Erik Sjoberg award.
21) Though, I think Mackenzie Skapski deserves some consideration for the way he’s played in his three appearances.
22) Another one is Marek Hrivik, who actually might turn out to be the fourth-line center.
23) Anyway, away they went to the 3-on-3 OT firedrill, which is what it is. And yeah, that’s a great play by Voracek, but Ryan McDonagh’s got to be stronger on him all over that shift. I mean, it’s tough for Rick Nash or Derek Stepan to leave their man to help on Voracek. It’s man-to-man. McDonagh got beat. I thought he had some moments in his preseason debut. One time he tried to catch a Flyers shot with the palm of his glove. Which I’m gonna guess is probably not a good idea.
24) Rick Nash. Hit a crossbar. Drew two penalties driving to the net. Took a penalty in the third. Was on the ice for the winner.
25) I thought Nick Holden was just fine on the right side. Not sure how the heck this is all going to shake out, and what the top six is actually going to look like on opening night.
26) Miller had a bit more jump than he did in Newark.
27) Kevin Hayes to Pavel Buchnevich 2-on-1 early. The pass was telegraphed a bit, and Steve Mason was able to get across. Would have gone a long way for Buchnevich to bury that one, IMO. Buchnevich was robbed by Mason in the third.
28) Today is the 25th anniversary of the Mark Messier trade. He was done, they said, at age 30. He only played ‘til he was 43.
29) Is that Ice-T?
ICYMI, the Rangers made some cuts last night, and might make more today. Calle Andersson, Chris Brown, Steven Fogarty, Ryan Gropp, Tommy Hughes, Philip McRae, Michael Paliotta, and Adam Tambellini were all assigned to Hartford (AHL).
Forwards (23): Pavel Buchnevich, Jesper Fast, Gabriel Fontaine, Nathan Gerbe, Tanner Glass, Michael Grabner, Kevin Hayes, Marek Hrivik, Nicklas Jensen, Josh Jooris, Robin Kovacs, Chris Kreider, Maxim Lapierre, Oscar Lindberg, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Cristoval Nieves, Brandon Pirri, Derek Stepan, Malte Stromwall, Jimmy Vesey, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello
Defensemen (12): Mat Bodie, Adam Clendening, John Gilmour, Dan Girardi, Ryan Graves, Nick Holden, Kevin Klein, Ryan McDonagh, Dylan McIlrath, Brady Skjei, Marc Staal, Chris Summers
Goaltenders (4): Magnus Hellberg, Henrik Lundqvist, Antti Raanta, Mackenzie Skapski
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Jimmy Vesey.
2. Dylan McIlrath.
3. Brandon Pirri.
Photos by Getty Images.