Don't get used to it, you can't play a five game stretch in the regular season and come away spilting the game down the middle. Yet, after the Rangers' exhibition schedule that's exactly where the team stands, 2-2-1 after five games, the key is the lack of overtime and/or shootouts. Some patterns have emerged, the Rangers finished the stretch with a number of low-key offensive games. A direction that the team may use going into the regular season. With as many as four defenders in the lineup on any given night, a high-speed, quick transition game would appear to be against the team's strengths, despite their team speed. When the players have a chance to adapt to the speed of the league, it'll be much easy to gauge the Rangers and just exactly what this team will be capable of this season.
One thing that is clear as mud is the goaltending situation, a week back Lavigne appeared to be the odd man out, but after his strong start on Friday night, the team now has all three netminders coming off of very strong starts where they allowed a combined 3 goals over 8 periods (barely over a goal a game). Certainly, it's an enviable the Rangers find themselves in. Rather than having a mish-mash of struggling netminders with none commanding the attention of a top netminder the Rangers appear to be full of options at this point. John Murray, brought his 'A' game on this afternoon. It was highlighted by a length two-man advantage by the IceDogs in the first period where the Rangers seemed incapable of relieving the pressure. It didn't help that the three penalty killers were simply trapped on the ice. Murray displayed both speed and intelligence in the crease, it could have been best described as a veteran netminder matchup as both Murray and Lobsinger who played half a season with the Ice Dogs after bolting from the Cambridge WinterHawks.
One of the always telling stories is
lineups during the exhibtion schedule. After a hiatus from the
Matt Auffrey and Justin Azevedo returned to the fold, Auffrey was not
much during the middle stages of the game, one can suspect in order to
provide some of the younger players some more playing time.
Azevedo returned to the lineup and for the first time in the exhibition
schedule he appeared with the 'C' sewn on his jersey. Jean-Michel
Rizk who had fulfilled the duties as the team captain, until this
where he found himself as a healthy scratch. Notables that were
missing at NHL camps include: Jakub Kindl, Mike Duco and Victor
(whom isn't guaranteed to return). Matthew Meszaros and Kelan
do not appear to be parts of the team's future at this time, still the
team has a very big roster going into the last week prior to the season
opener on Friday night.
After three full periods of scoreless hockey had been completed, in many instances because of the heroics of Murray and Lavigne who were the next closest thing to dominant tending the Rangers' net. Drew McAvoy, Kyle Lamb and Travis Fuller got the Rangers' running around in their own zone and finally beat Murray on the man advantage. After failing to score on four power plays in the first period, the IceDogs had struck again. The boys from Mississauga were completely familiar with having penalty-filled affairs, the Rangers on the other hand were a little unfamiliar with 21 total power plays for both teams, surprisingly it was a low number for the IceDogs. The Rangers drew even late in the second when Matt Auffrey connect at the side of the net on a power play of their own.
In the third period, the IceDogs took the lead for a second time. Travis Fuller and Luca Caputi worked the give-and-go on a turnover. Dan Gyenes was the only defender back, but had difficulty keeping up and chosing a target to chase, Caputi had the puck last and he slipped it under Murray who, himself appeared a little undecisive. One of the themes in the pre-season is often getting forwards their first goals. In the first period rookie hopeful Scott Timmins had his big chance in the first period, but missed the net. In the third he made his own chance, it happened so quickly that Lobsinger didn't have a chance to react. Immediately after intercepting a pass just inside the blueline he spun and launched a rocket off of the post and in. It was the shot heard 'round the Aud, and quite litterally getting a rise out of the smallish afternoon crowd that had at least a healthy helping of Mississauga IceDogs' fans.