It is never good to get beaten by your rivals. It is never good to get beaten by three goals by your rivals. It is preseason, so it really doesn't matter all that much. It was the first preseason game for the New Jersey Devils that played tonight. It was the first preseason game for any of the New York Rangers this year. Like most preseason games, the game served more as a way to get guys going. Some absolutely impressed. Clearly, more of them where on the Rangers as they contributed to the Devils' 3-6 loss tonight.
Preseason is a time where a Brian Gibbons or a Jayson Megna can get time to shine. The veterans may contribute - and they did for the opposition. But with jobs on the line deeper in the roster and depth chart spots in play, some of those fringe players make a point of it to delight. As they do, they end up getting more ice time than normal and they build on the good they're doing. Gibbons and Megna both played over 13 minutes, the former put up a goal and two assists and the latter got two goals. They helped make a difference on the ice and that could make a difference when their coaches have to start deciding on who to keep and who to cut.
The Devils, well, they've yet to have those sorts of players really stand out. Similar to Sunday's game, the performances were mixed. Some aspects were better. Special teams in general was much better. The team scored some goals; and all three of them were on the power play. Some aspects were the same: a poor second period perfomance and the Devils just took too many penalties - seven tonight. Again, this was the first game tonight for the Devils' players who participated tonight. Most will get another chance and the team will try to do better. Such as it is in preseason.
The Opposition Opinion: Over at Blueshirt Banter, Bryan Winters has this recap up.
The Game Highlights: Well, there's some goals tonight, so the NHL.com highlight video may be worth checking out despite a 3-6 final score to Our Hated Rivals:
Who Did Well Among the Veterans?: Three names stuck out to me tonight among the expected NHL regulars. First was their top defensive pairing: Andy Greene and Adam Larsson. Greene played an astounding 26:24 tonight and attempted eight shots on net. Granted, only one got to the net; but Greene was very active at getting stops and helping out on offense. You could see that he was just a cut above most of the other defensemen when he set up Mike Sislo for a power play goal in the second period. However, the key word is most. Adam Larsson had a strong night. He played mostly alongside Greene in his 23:25. His power play goal was not just an excellent shot from distance, but he had a smart give-and-go with Tyler Kennedy that helped open the space for that shot. The Devils' top defensive pairing resembled one tonight in their first game in months, that bodes well for the season.
As much as I liked the initial top line of Mike Cammalleri, Travis Zajac, and Jiri Tlusty, the standout forward among veterans to me was Jordin Tootoo. His job is straight-forward. Play a few shifts, throw some hits, get in front of the net, and maybe get some production. Tootoo got three shots, he finished a very good feed by Tyler Kennedy, and the play generally went well when he was out on the ice. The only part of his performance I didn't like was his tripping call near the end of regulation.
Who Did Well Among the Non-NHLers?: While I called this section for the non-veterans yesterday, the one I want to highlight isn't exactly a non-veteran. He just hasn't become a regular NHL player. I'm talking about Mike Sislo. He likely won't, but he definitely made a good case to those who wonder why he's been called up every so often in recent seasons. He did well in his twelve minutes. He managed to jam in a power play goal in the second period past Magnus Hellberg, which tied up the game at the time. He got three shots on net despite not playing on an offensive line. He showed some good energy. While he didn't set the game on fire, he made the most of his opportunity. That's what one hopes to see in preseason.
I will give some attention to Brandon Burlon. He didn't play a lot at even strength, but he managed to be out there a lot on the penalty kill. With seven different penalty killing situations, there were a lot of opportunities for shifts. Burlon played more shorthanded ice time than anyone on the team tonight. While he wasn't particularly notable, he wasn't getting torched either. Given that the PK killed everything but a 3-on-5 in the dying seconds of the game and they limited the Rangers to only eight shots in seven opportunities, everyone involved deserves some praise. That includes Burlon.
Who Didn't Do Well Among the Veterans?: While I liked him on the power play and going on the attack, John Moore started to get picked on more and more in his own end. If the game was only the first period, then I would've raved about Moore. But he wasn't that good in the second and third periods. The good news is that he's got the experience to work past it.
Who Didn't Do Well Among the Non-NHLers?: I feel bad for Stefan Matteau. Before the game, he told the press - Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, in this case - that "I feel it's more like my job to lose." He's not wrong and it's good to show some confidence. It's not at all good when his first major play was to do a no-look, turnaround, backhand passing attempt in the middle of his own defensive zone. Gibbons picked it up and then put it off the post and past Cory Schneider for an early goal. Even worse: that was his major contribution all game. Matteau did little else over his 11:33 of ice time. He'll get more chances to show he belongs, but tonight was a faceplant.
Raman Hrabarenka also had a heinous turnover in the first period. It didn't lead to a quick goal, but it did lead to one of New York's best shifts all night: an extended length of time in New Jersey's end culminating in Megna's one-timer goal. When the Rangers got settled in New Jersey's end, Hrabarenka just got lost among the numbers. He would skate about but not really do much and not really get to where he needed to be in time. He had some bad breaks, such as Oscar Lindberg's shot going off him for the Rangers' fifth goal tonight. But he had more notable struggles than the other defensemen. He may get another game or two, but I'm not yet sold he's going to be the first call up on defense when necessary.
While definitely not a younger player, Yann Danis definitely won't make the NHL roster unless Schneider and Keith Kinkaid get hurt. Danis got beat four times on eleven shots, including a very soft, sharp-angle goal to Viktor Stalberg. That one really put the game out of reach for New Jersey late in the second period. While the result means little in this game, getting beaten multiple times in net is never good for any goalie. Fortunately, he should be in Albany all season.
Special Teams Improvement: The Devils did some work on their power play and it may have yielded some better play tonight. The Devils didn't just continually stack the blueline on their zone entries. Winning some offensive zone faceoffs also helped. Defensemen did jump up as needed; they weren't just tied into a 1-3-1 or some variant all night long. The Devils generated ten shots on their five power plays and, more impressively, scored all three of their goals. The goals alone makes this a massive improvement over Sunday's issues, but overall the Devils just executed much better. That's a good thing going forward.
If it wasn't for Megna putting home a one-timer on the flank in the game's final minute, then the Devils' PK would've been perfect on a very busy night. Even then, Megna's goal came in a 3-on-5 situation; a result of Mike Cammalleri getting caught grabbing a stick during a desparate shorthanded effort. While the Devils didn't really challenge much shorthanded, they limited the Rangers' shooting opportunities and denied over twelve minutes of man advantage time for the home team. Again, that's very good and I don't think the late goal should detract from it.
Discipline, Seriously: Another too many men on the ice call and six generally avoidable penalties. There were five - yes, five - tripping calls. And most of them were preventable, just sticks being put into skates and legs. Blake Coleman's high sticking call may have been weak, but I don't know why he was raising his stick in the neutral zone when Dominic Moore already beat him. I know it's the first game for the roster tonight, but these are just self-inflicted wounds. They were damaging on Sunday, they could've been tonight.
Your Take: With three more games this week, I think cuts will wait until early next week. Nevertheless, John Hynes and his staff now has just about everyone with any hope of making the roster involved in a game save for three players (David Schlemko, Patrik Elias, Reid Boucher). What did you make of the crew that played tonight? I think they were better tonight than Sunday despite the more lopsided score, but I want to read from you. Who do you think did well, and why? Who do you think disappointed, and why? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's loss in the comments. Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread, thanks to those who followed @AATJerseyBlog on Twitter, and thanks to everyone who read this recap.