Brendan Shanahan

Preseason Grades Are In

by Mark Owens

With the win Saturday, the Rangers wrapped up the preseason. As Ranger fans await confirmation of Tom Renney’s final roster cuts, now is the time to evaluate each player’s  –  and the team’s  –  performance.

With a record of 3-2-1, I rate the team’s preseason performance a C+. There were blowout losses to the Flyers and Red Wings (5-0 and 6-1); an overtime loss to the Islanders (5-4) in a fight-filled game; impressive wins over the Devils and Flyers (4-1 and 3-2); and a 5-2 win over a rookie Islanders team.

Artem Anisimov – C. Anisimov did not contribute any goals or assists, but he did not look entirely out of place either, in three preseason games. He will benefit from a full season at Hartford, and in the weight room.

Sean Avery – B+. Avery only played one game (no points), against the Devils, but was at his antagonizing best in that game.

Blair Betts – B. Betts looked very good in the preseason killing penalties and blocking shots. He also chipped in one goal, one assist and an even plus/minus rating.

Ryan Callahan – B. Callahan has picked up where he left off last Spring: Finishing his checks, annoying the opposition, and scoring the occasional goal (2G, 1A in preseason).

Nigel Dawes – B+. Dawes was having a quiet preseason until erupting for three assists against the undermanned Islanders on Friday. In Saturday’s more competitive contest, Dawes contributed one goal and one assist in a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Flyers; displayed good chemistry with Gomez and Shanahan in those games; he and Shanahan led team with five preseason points.

Chris Drury – B. Drury had a quiet preseason offensively (1G, 1A), but showed his face-off skills and leadership by fighting the Flyers –  Mike Richards after Richards got mixed up with Jagr.

Brandon Dubinsky – B+. Dubinsky had a very good preseason with one goal and two assists. He also was a +1, had two fights and did well on face-offs. Isn’t that the definition of a third-line center?

Dan Girardi – A. Girardi was the team’s steadiest defenseman in the preseason with four assists and a +2 rating.

Scott Gomez – B. Gomez had a somewhat quiet preseason but came on late playing with Dawes and Shanahan, finishing with two goals and two assists. Lack of chemistry with Jagr is a little unsettling but they will have time to work that out.

Ryan Hollweg – C. Hollweg continued to be the ultimate agitator playing on the fringes of the rule book. He needs to become a little better defensively, since he offers so little offensively.

Marcel Hossa – D. Hossa did nothing to seize a roster spot this preseason, finishing with one assist and a -3 rating. Dawes, Dubinsky and Callahan have outplayed him, so Hossa may be a healthy scratch this Thursday, unless  – potential –  weighs more heavily than  – results. –

Jaromir Jagr – C-. Jagr coasted through three preseason games (one assist) while struggling to find the right centerman. Rating Jagr on preseason performance is meaningless, however.

Henrik Lundqvist – B. Lundqvist was simply warming up this preseason and looks to add a Stanley Cup to his Olympic gold medal and two Vezina Trophy nominations. He was the NHL MVP in second half of last season, and the Rangers need him to find that form again this season.

Marek Malik – C-. Malik is the Garden’s new whipping boy, and had a pretty shaky preseason (one assist, -3 rating), but he’s not going anywhere as long as he continues to play well with Rozsival, Jagr and Straka during the regular season.

Paul Mara – B. Mara had a decent preseason (two assists) playing with a variety of defensive partners but played well in the win over the Flyers Saturday night (one assist, +1 rating).

Al Montoya – B. Montoya’s main chance to play in the preseason was against the Islanders, but he was forced to fight Rick DiPietro and was kicked out of that game. Looked steady before that and in the 4-1 win over the Devils.

Colton Orr – B+. Orr knows his role and did it well in the preseason. Reminded the Flyers of his might when he dropped Jesse Boulerice with a nice right jab in the 5-0 loss last week.

Thomas Pock – B. Pock had a good preseason, especially in the last game against the Flyers (22 minutes of ice time, +1 rating). The Rangers have to keep him or risk losing him on waivers if they try to send him to Hartford.

Petr Prucha – C-. Prucha had a very quiet preseason, with just one goal. Despite offensive success in his first two seasons, it is unclear what role Prucha will play this season. Like Hossa, he was outplayed by the rookies in September.

Michal Rozsival – C-. Rozsival did not have a good preseason, but was probably going through the motions like Jagr. He was the team’s best defenseman and workhorse last year. If he has a bad season or gets hurt, the Rangers might be forced to trade for a top-four defenseman (Ed Jovanovski?) if they want the Cup.

Brendan Shanahan – A. Shanahan scored two goals and three assists in the preseason, and continues to play like a team captain, fighting the Flyers –  Jason Smith on Saturday. This is starting to look more and more like his team, with an emphasis on tough North American play.

Marc Staal – B. Staal looks good enough to start the season with the Rangers and certainly made his case by scoring the game-winning goal against the Flyers. Strudwick and Pock are in his way though, so he may be sent to Hartford to play full time Remember, he played junior hockey, not AHL hockey last season.

Martin Straka – B+. Straka was very good all around in preseason and scored two goals. Versatile and defensively responsible, he will probably play with Jagr again this season.

Jason Strudwick – A. Strudwick did not score any goals or assists, but was very steady (even plus/minus rating) playing with multiple defensive partners and dropping the gloves as needed.

Fedor Tyutin – B-. Tyutin had two assists and a -1 rating in the preseason. The Rangers need him to step it up a notch this season, and playing with the steady Girardi should help make that happen.

Stephen Valiquette – C. Valiquette did not play much in the preseason and missed time after cutting his hand. The Rangers probably will not count on him to back up Henrik in the playoffs.

Final Cuts
Renney has to cut three more players and will probably start by demoting Anisimov and Valiquette or Montoya to Hartford. For the final cut, will he go with the  – easy –  choice and demote a rookie such as Staal, Dubinsky, Dawes or Callahan? Or will he (and Glen Sather) essentially sever ties with a veteran such as Pock, Hossa or Prucha? The easy choice would be demoting a rookie, since they can be recalled later in the season, but their preseason play makes this a difficult choice.

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