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Ahhh, NHL hockey is back! While it is still just the preseason, and these games are really beyond meaningless, they do give you a chance to gauge certain players, and see how effective they can be against NHL level talent.

First and foremost, let’s start with the good. I was dead set against the Frolov signing. Absolutely hated it. But in one fell swoop Frolov really changed my mind. I know it’s just 1 meaningless game, but Frolov was an absolute monster out there. He was unstoppable with the puck along the boards, using his size, and remarkable balance to shield the puck while constantly having his head on a swivel to find open players. Frolov played on the boards the way I so desperately want Brandon Dubinsky to play along the boards. Kind of like Jagr used to do for us, use his body to shield the puck, use his strength to stay on his skates while a pretty good defenseman in Anton Volchenkov is hammering away at him, and find the open man. Likewise the two University of Wisconsin kids were outstanding. Derek Stepan centered the first line like he belonged there. Never scared to be creative with the puck, never panicking, kid was cool as ice, and extremely heady. I’ve seen a lot of Stepan over the past year, and I know what hes capable of. My only fear with him, as with all college players, is the schedule, and the length of the season. Stepan may benefit from a year in Hartford getting used to these things. Or he may be good enough to learn on the fly centering 2 tremendous wingers who can cover for him when he makes a mistake simply by their presence. Similarly Ryan McDonagh was a rock back in his own zone. Showing tremendous strength, and some good heads up passing as well. A few times he was beaten by the speedy Devils wingers, but that was unsurprising either. He’s still learning the game at this level. Similarly another standout (besides Gaborik who really isn’t worth mentioning because, well, we already know how awesome he is) was Brian Boyle. I was ecstatic with his play tonight. Brian was playing mean. He needs to play mean. He’s got the size and speed to not only catch up to the smaller players, but to run them through the wall, and he did that frequently tonight. He also used his superior size to shield the puck along the boards, to take the puck to the net on his goal, and to create time and space to make plays. Granted he didn’t have much to work with on his wings with that lumbering oaf Boogaard on one side, and Dale Weise who I was thoroughly unimpressed with.

On the flip side, there were some negatives. You can start with Chad Johnson who almost gave away a game with a really soft goal, but its tough to come into a game that way, and play ice cold against a group of forwards that the Devils can throw at you, so I’ll give him a pass. I thought Mats Zuccarello-Aasen (who I will call MZA from now on), was absolutely awful. It’s just 1 game, and he hasn’t spent any time whatsoever learning systems here, but his decision making always seemed to be wrong. He was trying to force passes all night long, and just looked downright clumsy with the puck. When you play for the first time at MSG, and for the first time in an NHL game, that’s not surprising, so again, I will give him a pass without much though. I also was unhappy with the play of Michael Sauer. One of my favorite sleeper prospects, I thought he looked flatfooted all night long. Was constantly beaten to pucks, and didnt look…for lack of a better word…hungry. I wanted to see a lot more from Sauer, and I was disappointed. It’s still just 1 game, but Sauer played much better last preseason, so let’s not give up on the kid just yet.

Ok, that’s all for now, lets see how the B team does against the Devils on Saturday.


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