An 8-4 loss to EV Zug was not the way the New York Rangers wanted to conclude their preseason campaign this afternoon in Switzerland. You can say what you want about fatigue and having to play three games in four days, but the bottom line is that the team was straight up embarrassed by Zug in this game and there is no getting around that. Today's outcome will not have an impact on the Rangers' season, I know that, but such a disaster of an effort with a lineup pretty close to what will be taking the ice on opening night should at least throw up some red flags.
There will be no beating around the bush here; the offense was mediocre, the defense was sloppy and Marty Biron had a very forgettable performance in goal. The Rangers have been struggling defensively to begin with throughout the preseason, so to have Biron come in and allow soft goals left and right did not help at all.
I am aware that Marc Staal and Michael Sauer, two of the Blueshirts' top defensemen, have not been in the lineup, but that does not give the rest of the blue-line an excuse to play dismal defense. The coaching staff needs to get positioning and coverage through the heads of these players fast before Friday's opener, otherwise it's going to be a rough ride against a highly-talented L.A. Kings squad.
Ryan McDongh and Dan Girardi have been the only defensemen that have played consistently well throughout the preseason. The rest of the pack has been up and down, but majority of the time they have been down. Michael Del Zotto was showing improvement, he really was. But after today's game he took several steps back and now I am somewhat concerned about him as well. At least two of the goals allowed today were partly his fault, and several times John Tortorella was forced to lecture DZ on the bench.
Brendan Bell and Stu Bickel have been okay at best, but they are not the players that the guys on MSG Network have been trying to make that out to be. At most I can see Bell being a spare, but he's not cracking the top six. And as for Bickel, he is not an NHL caliber player. Besides his willingness to throw his body around, he's no gleaming star.
And I often forget that Steve Eminger is even in the lineup at times. Maybe that's a good thing since he isn't making any obvious mistakes, but at the same time he isn't standing out in a positive way either.
On offense I think you can make a case that the fatigue did come into play, because a lot of Tortorella's offensive philosophies are based on speed, and that's something the Rangers surely didn't have today. They weren't chasing down their own dump-ins, they were a step or two away from getting to loose pucks and their entrance into the zone looked like it was moving in slow-motion.
One player I do have to point out for playing well, though, is Artem Anisimov. He picked up another goal and an assist today and I think when you go down the entire lineup, he has been one of the best performers in training camp and preseason this year. He's showing more strength with the puck, he's quicker and he is more confident shooting as well. Anisimov really has shown some significant improvement from last season and I think he is going to become a very big part of the club's offense this season. It looks like he's finally taken that next step.
Tortorella couldn't seem to make up his mind on who should be playing on the first line left wing spot. The game started with Fedotenko there, then Dubinsky skated in that spot for a while, but before the final buzzer Fedotenko was there again. I think Wojtek Wolski has looked the best with Richards and Gaborik out of all of them, but he is currently out with a sore groin. When he will return is unknown right now, but let's hope it's in time for Friday because no one else is really clicking with that line.
And Erik Christensen did nothing but blow a defensive coverage in this game. Not sure why he was given another opportunity over Sean Avery, but clearly Avery is the one with the heart who is going to compete for the team night in and night out. Christensen is hollow - there's no emotion there.
The Rangers will now fly out to Stockholm, Sweden where they will rest for the next three days before Friday's season opener. In that time the team will practice twice and at least one additional cut should be made. The time off should do them well because as we saw this afternoon, they have a lot to work on.