Rangers fall 3-2 to Devils, Othmann/Cuylle impress, Laf does not, @NYI
The Rangers fell 3-2 to the Devils on Thursday and face the Islanders on the road tonight. Erik Gustafsson and Brenann Othmann, each of whom have had impressive training camps, scored the markers for the Blueshirts, while Igor Shesterkin stopped 19 of 20 shots. Alexis Lafreniere did little to show he should remain the top line right wing, but he should get more chances to evidence he belongs there
Lines vs. NJ:
Kreider - Zibanejad - Lafreniere
Cuylle - Brodzinski - Kakko
Othmann - Bonino - Wheeler
Blidh - Henriksson - Belzile
Miller - Fox
Gustafsson - Schneider
Jones - Emberson
A few thoughts:
1) Lafreniere - the consensus view, if you read X (f/k/a Twitter) and the comments here, is that Laf is a bust. What we were hoping to see this training camp and preseason - more speed, quicker decisions, standing out on the ice - has yet to materialize. To me, Laf looks like he is thinking, then reacting rather than reacting immediately or using the skill he has.
This is where Laf differs from Othmann and Will Cuylle, each of whom use their size to carve out space or be a difference maker but also process and make decisions much quicker. Both have opened eyes in camp and will make the decision on whether they should remain in NY or start the year in Hartford very difficult.
As yesterday was the first game Mika Zibanejad played, coupled with the view that lines need time to create chemistry, don't expect any changes immediately. This means that we should see Kreider-Zib-Laf at least one more time this preseason. Beyond that, the jury is out and it will depend on how long coach Peter Laviolette wants to stick with that trio before a change is made.
2) Shesterkin looked to be in mid-season form. If coming up with areas that might be a concern or worry, Igor is way, way, way down the list. Now who will be the backup does concern me, as I am not sold on Jonathan Quick at all.
3) K'Andre Miller-Adam Fox received their first game action as a duo. The pair was outshot 8-3, but as noted above with the top line, growing pains were expected. Plus, d-men need to build chemistry and communication to be effective irrespective of the talent level between the pair. I expect we will see the usual Miller-Jacob Trouba and Ryan Lindgren-Fox pairings come Oct. 12, but mixing-and-matching and building some muscle memory in case of injury or change is needed is wise.
4) Gustafsson has the clear lead for the sixth spot while Zac Jones seems penciled in for the seventh spot. I almost expect Jones to be dealt at some point before his value dips any further. all signs point to him not having a role on this team and he can't go to Hartford without passing through waivers, which won't happen.
Lines in practice this am:
Those not on the ice this am who could be in the lineup were Cuylle, Lafrenière, Kaapo Kakko or Nick Bonino. They could be in tonight's lineup for the Rangers and you would expect at least two to make a full lineup to dress. My guess is Kakko and Bonino, each who dressed Monday, will play, but Cuylle could very well get the nod as he tries to earn a roster spot.
Update: per Mollie Walker, Othmann is not slated to play tonight.