The Rangers looked pretty good in their preseason bout with the Ottawa Senators tonight and pulled out a 2-1 win. It is reason to be giddy as these guys took care of business against an opponent they were supposed to beat - Ottawa's B-team. The boys showed some good chemistry and worked hard, which is all one can ask for. Some observations:
*I have to start with the biggest shock for me in this one: Nik Zherdev was fantastic. He showed some flash with his stickhandling (even if he looked like Alex Kovalev in getting around three guys and losing the puck out of the zone), he skated hard and he backchecked! Backchecked! With his reputation coming from Columbus, that was the last thing I expected and I really hope he keeps it up.
*Zherdev's linemates both played solid. Markus Naslund had two shifts where he turned back the clock to before the lockout and played with the strength and quickness that made him a NHL star. Scott Gomez was wearing the C (Drury had it Saturday) but didn't appear to play with the same effort that everyone else did, but that is just how he plays before he pops up and makes outrageous plays. The three of them were good on the power play, which is where they will be needed the most, but they still went 0-for-7 with the man advantage ...
*But I am still excited because there was actually cycling on the Ranger power play. Cycling! By the Rangers! What a beautiful thing.
*High draft picks Artem Anisimov and Bobby Sanguinetti were practically invisible, while Doug Weise and Lauri Korpikoski were both solid. The Rangers signed Weise after Traverse City and tonight he showed why - he kept his skates moving, hit banged bodies and played his position, I'm a fan. Korpikoski, as we already knew, has NHL skills. His game-winning goal was a simple redirect through a stick-less Alex Auld but he swarmed the net and looked good coming off the boards.
*Jarkko Ruutu deserves a beating. That's all, just wanted to point that out ... again.
*There were two guys out there battling for the seventh defenseman spot in Brian Fahey and Thomas Pock. Fahey fell three times during one shift and had a few bad turnovers while Pock was quiet, yet steady.
*Two other defensemen need A LOT of work. Wade Redden seemed to coast through the game, did not play with the poise of a No. 1 blueliner and - if I am not mistaken - was the defenseman victimized on the 2-on-1 that resulted in the Sens lone goal. But as bad as he was, Dmitri Malik, oops, I mean Dmitri Kalinen was terrible. He turned over the puck, blew coverages, was knocked around by forecheckers ... he stank. Me'thinks he will follow in the grand tradition of Tom Poti and Marek Malik to draw the ire of the Garden faithful.
*It's funny, as much as I have professed my fandom for Voros, I don't think he will even have a spot on the team if Colton Orr keeps skating the way he has. Orr looks like a completely different player out there, we just need to see if he can still fight ...
*Brandon Dubinsky, by the way, continues to look like a different player - that Jagr guy. Dubi seems to be getting more comfortable with using his size to protect the puck and get through traffic to get off smart, high percentage shots.
*I managed to make it this far without talking about Petr Nedved but I just have to include him. What can I say? He partied like it was 1999. He definitely makes for an interesting conundrum - is he worth either bumping Selke candidate Blair Betts to the bench or sending Chris Drury back to the wing? Maybe, maybe ... I know I would rather see the latter as Bettsy is too important on the penalty kill and in the faceoff dot.
*There isn't much to say about the goaltenders, neither Hank nor Zaba were really tested.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Alex Auld - 28 saves.
2-Lauri Korpikoski - one goal.
1-Petr Nedved - one goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Christoph Schubert - The German was the best player on the ice for the Sens. He played smart in his own end, he played physically and he made the all-important solid first passes.
2-Zherdev - I was going to put Nedved in here because he showed NHL form, but Zherdev really did everything well on both ends of the ice, even venturing into the corners and working off the short boards. Totally shocked, totally impressed.
1-Dan Girardi - Everything that Wade Redden wasn't on this night, Girardi was. Girardi played really good positional defense, he stood up Sens as they came across the blueline, he joined in the attack ... he was the No. 1 defenseman on the Rangers.