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It was interesting watching this game tonight after playing my own just an hour before I queued up my DVR. In basically identical fashion my personal team has absolutely no legs to start our game, but we came on stronger as the game went on. Much like the Rangers tonight who definitely looked like a team that had been run ragged by their coaching staff during the first few days of training camp. I really was more or less expecting that though, to be honest. These intense skates will pay off down the road, but for right now the team will have to suffer through some adjustment time while they get used to playing at this intense level for 60 minutes.

The Rangers coming out flat to start a game is nothing new for us. The Rangers only putting up 1 goal is also nothing new to us. However I saw so many positives I couldn’t help but smile after the game. Really all I was looking at where the kids. How were they doing out there, and by and large I was very happy with what I saw.

First and foremost you have Evgeny Grachev. In case some of you are not familiar with Grachevs modus operandi allow me to give a little insight into how he tends to play. At every level this kid has ever played at, he has always started slow. He will play OK for about 2-3 games before he adjusts to the size, speed, and system of the league and his team. I was actually quite happy he looked as good as he did since I really expected him to look lost, and overmatched. Now granted this is just a preseason game, and a lot of those guys he was playing against were not NHL players, however he still looked quite strong and into the game after the first period and a half. On the flip side I felt Artem Anisimov had just an OK performance. He looked tentative at times out there, trying to play it safe rather than use his quite impressive skill set to make plays. I think that is rookie syndrome where the kids tend to want to not make mistakes rather than try to make things happen. This is something Bobby Sanguinetti tends to suffer from more than most players, hopefully he plays tomorrow and we can see him make a name for himself.

One guy who had no problem trying to make plays was Michael Del Zotto, who looked absolutely NHL ready with his performance out there. You can’t help but be impressed with the kids decision making. He knew when to pinch, when to stay back, and showed some fairly good defensive positioning out there for a kid who was pinching half the game. Perhaps Del Zottos most impressive showing though was his ability to see the ice. He saw plays that I did not see when watching on TV. Which, if you think about it, is really saying something. When you are watching a game on TV, you can usually predict what is going to happen and who is going to go where and what the player is going to do with the puck. Del Zotto had a knack for making picture perfect passes to guys you don’t even notice are open till he points it out to you with a beautiful saucer pass that lands right on the tape of his target. Similarly I felt Matt Gilroy played a strong game in the offensive zone as well, though he does not seem to see the ice as well as Del Zotto, Gilroy looks to be very heady on when to jump into the play as well. Gilroys defensive zone play though was quite weak, and I felt he was definitely the worst defenseman in his own zone.

Michael Sauer, as you might expect, played a cool, calm, steady game. He won’t wow you with his flashy end to end rushes like Gilroy, nor will he make your jaw drop with a pretty pass like Del Zotto, but the kid knows how to play defense. Really, I think he has the best shot out of all our defenseman of making this team as a regular. I was very impressed with his play. It reminded me a lot of Marc Staal in his first season. Cool, calm, collected, and making the simple plays to get out of trouble. I can definitely envision both Del Zotto and Sauer making this team over Gilroy.

After the first period and a half just about the entire team looked great, except for 1 guy who really stood out as a non factor. Enver Lisin to me looked totally outmatched at this level. Aside from his strong skating stride, he seemed unable to read the play, often went into areas that were already occupied by his linemates, and didn’t really do much of all to make me change my mind on hating the trade which brought him here. Similarly I felt P.A. Parenteau looked like an AHL+ player. He just doesn’t look like an NHLer out there. He takes too long to make plays, and physically I don’t know if he is capable of making plays at this level like he is in the AHL.

Other than that, try not to make more of this game than what it really was. Mostly a bunch of AHL and OHL kids trying to make a name for themselves. Also keep in mind that Boston plays a defensive first trapping system, don’t be shocked that the score stays low against that kind of a team. Similarly tomorrow, expect the score to stay low. That’s how they play it. See you then.

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