Rangers Edge Devils, 4-3, In Richards Debut

Unlike Wednesday, last night’s pre-season game had more of an NHL feel. The Rangers dressed more NHLers and had its No. 1 line, including Brad Richards, was in tact the duration of the game en route to the Rangers’ first preseason win of the year, 4-3, over the New Jersey Devils.

Richards tied the game at 1 in the first period after the Devils scored an early powerplay goal. Derek Stepan made it 2-1 just over a minute later. A powerplay goal by Marian Gaborik early in the second period made it 3-1. The Devils scored two goals in the second period to make it 3-3 going into the third. Defenseman Brendan Bell made it 4-3 with about four minutes left. Martin Biron gave up three goals on 16 shots.

Some notes and quotes.

  • The No. 1 of Richards, Gaborik and Wojtek Wolski played very well. For the first time since 2005-06, the Rangers have a legitimate dangerous top-line that can make things happen every shift. Partly because it was the first game they’re together, but I was excited each time the line took the ice. Richards and Gaborik already showed signs of chemistry, and Wolski complements their skill very well. He’s just got to be consistent. 
  • I really liked the five- forward powerplay, but I can see it giving up plenty of short-handed goals this season. It’s a risk-reward type of system. It will definitely generate more offense, but five forwards don’t bring much in terms of defense. Also, as it stands now, the Rangers don’t have an offensive threat from the back-end. That could change if Michael Del Zotto makes the team, but that is not guarantee.
  • Sticking with the powerplay, I love Brian Boyle up front on the goal mouth. I don’t know why it took head coach John Tortorella this long to try it, but I really like it. He’ll get plenty of goals from a few feet out. He’ll also be a tough screen for goalies and defensemen, considering his size.
  • Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer were once again un-noticeable, which is a good thing. With defensive-minded defenseman, you have a good game if you don’t really stand out much. They were very solid throughout the 60 minutes. I expect these guys to have great seasons in Sauer can stay healthy throughout.
  • Mike Rupp dropping the gloves made me instantly applaud the signing. I never realized how big he is, but it showed in the scrap. His signing will no-doubt relieve some of the fisticuffs for Brandon Prust.
  • Nice to see Bell score, I guess. He’s not really a guy I necessarily want to see on the team because I don’t think he has much of a future in the NHL, and taking a spot away from another player is a little counter-productive.
  • Stepan’s wrister from the top of the circle in the first was nasty. I don’t see this kid taking a step back in his sophomore season.
  • It was great to see Ryan Callahan with the C on his sweater. No one deserves it more than he does.
  • It looked like there was about 3,000 people in the audience.
Gaborik on playing with Richards: “He’s one of the best players in the league,” Gaborik said. “You can see he’s good at making plays and handling the puck and, also, defensively, he knows where to go…We spent some time in their zone. We still need to work on some things but I think it was pretty good for the first game.”
“I try to move it through some give-and-gos and get to some openings,” Gaborik said. “We created some chances on the power play and five and five, that’s how we’ve got to work. He handles the puck well. It’s better off with him carrying the puck and making that final play and me hitting the stride.”
Gaborik on five-forwards on the PP: “It’s going to last until we make some turnovers so we just have to think to get back as well,” Gaborik said. “Five forwards, there are not really any defensive guys over there. We got caught last year on our power play so we have to be aware of that.”
Tortorella on PP: “I liked it,” Tortorella said of using the five forwards. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that, we’re experimenting but I didn’t mind that at all. They had the puck.”
Tortorella on the defense: “Some good, some struggles. I thought our D played fairly well at times. And then there were some struggles. Guys like Bell and Erixon have to understand how we play and just get used to it again. I thought we had some really good shifts with our back end and some struggles with our back end.”
Bell on learning the Rangers’ style: “It is a new system, it is not completely foreign to me but I’ve got to get comfortable, whether it’s trusting my partners, trusting my teammates, sticking with the framework what we’ve got,” Bell agreed. “It’s not like it’s a hard system to grasp. It’s just changing your patterns and habits to adapt.”
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamiaTHW
Quotes courtesy of Rangers Rants
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