Preseason has begun and it was a victorious night for the New Jersey Devils. The results won't matter at all in the long run. However, it wouldn't be much of a recap if that wasn't brought up at all. The Devils won 5-4 in Rangerstown. The Devils enjoyed the better of possession overall. In all situations, they out-attempted the New York Rangers 58-38. While the Devils' 32 shots meant 26 attempts that weren't shots, it represents who had the puck more often. That said, the Rangers made it very interesting. They scored two goals fairly quickly two times to eliminate Devils' leads. The second instance was within the final five minutes of the game, leading the Devils faithful watching this one to already dread overtime, shootouts, and giving up leads in general. At the 19:08 mark, Adam Henrique decided it was over.
The Opposition Opinion: Evan Sporer has this recap over at Blueshirt Banter.
The Highlight Video: You want highlights of a preseason game? NHL.com has got you covered:
As I think preseason hockey is really about the performances as opposed to the final score, I will focus this recap and future ones on those as best as I can. Fortunately, this game featured some positives, some negatives, and some stuff in between.
Young Guys Making Good: On paper, Reid Boucher has a proverbially large hill to climb if he wants to make the New Jersey Devils roster. On the ice, he's begun his ascent. Boucher was flying right from the get-go on a line with Adam Henrique and Michael Ryder. He was crucial to the Devils' first three goals. He turned a good defensive play - a board battle along the boards for a zone exit - into the game's first goal. Henrique couldn't get on the loose puck, but it was knocked back to Boucher; the youngster hammered a shot that Henrique got a touch on to beat Henrik Lundqvist. Later, Boucher dumped in the puck. His hustle got him into position to hold up play, Henrique eventually got it and sent it back to Eric Gelinas. The Truth was deflected down by Michael Ryder for a goal. In the second period, Boucher turned a Chris Mueller turnover into a lovely pass to the slot that Ryder re-directed past Cam Talbot. In total, Boucher got a goal, an assist, six of New Jersey's 32 shots on net, and 15:08 of ice time. He even was noticeable at times on defense. He had a very good game, arguably the best among the Devils tonight.
Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas are in a different situation. Unlike Boucher, they're a safe bet for being New Jersey Devils. But where will they be? Tonight, they were a key pairing and played like it. Gelinas was solid in his own end and was judicious with his decisions to get aggressive. The Truth was on display with five shots on net; one deflected in for a goal and another blast that torched Talbot for a 5-on-3 PPG. Larsson was given the task of being the leader, so to speak. He largely was. His one miscue was when Chris Kreider got around him on a long pass. He got bodied out on that play and it led to a goal against. So it wasn't a perfect night. On other situations, he held his own physically and was good enough.
I will say I thought Stefan Matteau and Damon Severson were OK. Matteau played the kind of game you'd hope: some hits, some signs of offense, and very little that was dumb. Severson was thrown into the deep end in terms of minutes. He held his own for most of the 23 minutes he played in. He got caught in some bad spots - he definitely got away with a hold on a third period penalty kill situation - but he never really panicked. As for the penalty he took, well, he did put his hands on Tanner Glass, who may or may not have lived up to his last name.
It wasn't all good from the young players. Jacob Josefson was tough to figure out. He didn't do a ton on offense. He showed some good passes, I wished Larsson got onto his saucer pass on a shorthanded 2-on-1. I equally wished he took Henrique's pass on a similar shorthanded rush later in the game. While he was serviceable on the PK, he put the Devils in a tricky spot late with an arm tackle on Kreider at the end of the game. For someone on the bubble, so to speak, he could've done a bit more. He wasn't actively bad or invisible (see: Tim Sestito) but he wasn't covered in glory by the end of the night.
Tryouts Not Making Most of It: Generally, it makes little sense to make sweeping judgements off of one preseason game, nevermind the first one. I will make an exception for Mike Komisarek. He was terrible tonight. While he and his partner Dan Kelly were understandably protected, he was just out of sorts. He was caught flat footed several times, most notably when Carl Hagelin torched him on his way to New York's first goal of the game. He was caught out of position on Jesper Fast's all-alone-in-the-slot-so-he-turned-into-Brian-Rolston-for-a-slap-shot goal while Kelly was supremely out of position. Komisarek even had trouble with routine passes. No one is honestly expecting much from Dan Kelly. Komisarek has a career to play for and his first opportunity to do so was an error.
Jordin Tootoo may have been lauded in practice, but I wasn't real thrilled with him tonight. He displayed some signs of toughness, grit, and whatever buzzword you have for players of his ilk. That's not offensive on it's own. But I was especially not thrilled with his check to the head penalty. I don't think he really got Michael Kostka's head, but he definitely hit him away from the play and it was brutal. It was a bad time for an offensive zone penalty and that was his main mark.
Ruslan Fedotenko didn't do too much. I understand he had to play alongside Cam Janssen and Tim Sestito. But the whole idea of a tryout is to try to do something to stand out. I don't think he really did.
Among those that did play, Tomas Kaberle was the best by default. He played a lot more than I thought he did. I was stunned to see that his ice time was 25:45. I suppose it's a compliment that a defender wasn't all that noticeable despite playing a significant amount of the game. I do think these four tryouts will get at least another game. I would mind Kaberle the least based on how he played tonight.
A Slight Edge: Scott Clemmensen and Keith Kinkaid split the goaltending duties tonight. I don't think either really made a major case one way or another for the #2 spot behind Cory Schneider. I'd favor Kinkaid a bit more after tonight, though. He made two more saves, I really liked his big stop on Danny Kristo late in the game, and he didn't lose a puck that ended up going off of him and into the net, which was Clemmensen's first goal against. I didn't like Kreider beating him shortside on the rush, but at least that was clean. I'd expect these two to split a few more games in the future.
Veterans in Form: Henrique and Ryder looked excellent. Both were pushing forward and skating well. I liked Henrique's play in both ends and he was shooting well. Ryder got the benefit of two tips but in both cases, he got close to the net. The Devils definitely made a point of it to get a body in the slot and it paid dividends with three goals and several tough saves by Lundqvist/Talbot. I was more pleased watching them do what they did as opposed to Patrik Elias, Martin Havlat (he showed some flashes of skill), and Dainius Zubrus. Then again, that may be the result of a match-up of sorts.
The Run of Pl...Oh, Another Penalty: Normally, the first preseason game from a NHL team can be a bear to watch. There is a real possibility of players being really rusty and slower than usual. Surprisingly, both teams played at a speedy tempo and didn't appear to botch so many more passes than what you'd see in a regular game.
Yet, the game did get choppy with the chippiness and penalties that came with it. The game had a total of 13 penalties, all minors with a few that ran into each other. Both teams can feel mostly OK with their penalty kill. The Devils did eventually out-shoot the Rangers on power plays and did convert a 5-on-3. However, they were in mid-season form with their zone entries in that they struggled to carry it in and any attempts to dump it in were usually thwarted. If there was a tactical issue with tonight's game, then it's how they approach the offensive zone on power plays coming through the neutral zone. The Rangers were able to gain the zone a bit more easily but struggled to get the shots they were looking for with a few exceptions - and Ryan Malone's one-timer on Clemmensen's flank. The penalty calls were mostly legit; I still think Talbot is still selling Elias nudging his right side, though.
As for the Opposition: I would be remiss to highlight that J.T. Miller had another strong game in his quest to permanently stay with New York. Fast's then-equalizer helps, but Miller was a force all night long. Kreider came on stronger as the game went on. He got a goal that made a comeback possible and played to the level he's expected to. I'd say he was New York's second best player of the night behind Miller. Malone played like Malone usually does: a few really strong shifts where he looks like Rick Nash and then more like Kevin Nash on others. The announcers kept hyping up Kevin Hayes, but I didn't think he was that exceptional outside of a few moments.
Lastly: This game appeared across the MSG family of networks and the commentary on all of them were Rangers-based. I get it. It's their network and they aired this game because they're playing. At least Deb Placey and Ken Daneyko got intermission work. Still, it was a chore to listen to narrative after narrative. Apparently the main lesson from the SCF was that the Rangers need a big, strong center. I do hope Dolan follows his broadcasters. But like preseason itself, I will endure two-and-a-half hours of Sam Rosen because I can totally forget about it in two weeks.
Your Take: The first game of the preseason is in the temporary books. Let me know what you think. Who on the Devils impressed you the most? Who on the Devils disappointed you the most? Who helped or hurt their cause for making the roster? Can you handle two and a half hours of Sam Rosen? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this game in the comments. Thanks to all those who commented in the Gamethread, followed @InLouWeTrust on Twitter, and you for reading this recap.