All anyone really wanted from this show match was to come out of the healthy one. After being frightened, the Rangers seem to have achieved this goal.
Although Marc Staal, a Blueshirt with 104 Stanley Cup playoff games, left Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat at the Toronto Islanders after the second period and did not return, he should be good to go to Saturday’s Game 1 against Carolina.
“It was just a precaution,” David Quinn said when asked. “[He’ll be OK.]”
Next time, of course, it would be real for the Rangers, who were relatively lukewarm in their warm-up on Wednesday, not that anyone should read too much of this first game in 141 days and the one that played without a fan in the stands.
The pace was reasonably good, although top Blueshirts like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad often looked like they were playing their first game in four months or more. The same goes for Chris Kreider, who has not been in a competitive situation on the ice since February 28, when he broke his leg in Philadelphia.
The fact is that this is an observation rather than a critique. Panarin has been on foot since the Blueshirts were officially regained on July 13. One speculates that this is an example of a great athlete who knows his body and his abilities as he stands toward Saturday, but the Rangers will quite clearly need their Hart Trophy finalist to hit the ice when the puck falls just after Saturday afternoon.
Igor Shesterkin was barely tested in his preparatory work for the expected Saturday start of Game 1, which allowed one goal on the nearby Anthony Beauvillier circuit two to one in the middle of the second period, while at 29:15 he faced a total of seven shots. Beauvillier’s goal, a short hockey pass, was created by stretch player Andy Greene, who caught Adam Fox on the ice. The goal came the first sharp islanding of this period.
Henrik Lundqvist, who relieved Shesterkin, was excellent, beaten only by Devon Toews on his right wrist with less than 5 minutes to play in the third period. It was a transfer from the camp, during which the king was very sharp.
Lundqvist has started the last 127 Rangers playoff games, which date back to Game 2 of the 2006 first round against the devils. Qualifying games will not count as play-off games, so the lane will live technically, even if Lundqvist is on the bench when the puck drops on Saturday.
Kaapo Kakko played with the same confidence and touch of the robber he exhibited during the two-week summer camp Blueshirts. David Quinn promoted Kakka, who became the first scorer, a north-south player, to second line with Panarin and Ryan Tree for a few changes in the first period. Nineteen-year-old Finn worked well with third-line pivot Filip Chytil in creating a chance to score against Semyon Varlamov in the second period.
And Chytil went into the net to bury Jesper Fast’s second shot, leaving 3:38 in the match to get the Blueshirts to 2-1. The Rangers were the toughest team of six during the season. If Kid Kakko and Kid Chytil could create a dangerous third line, it would definitely change the momentum.