Size Up The Middle

I got to catch about half of last nights Rangers-Devils pre-season game; even given modern technology I had to put the game on DVR and get to synagogue live. I missed Weekes getting hurt, and the first two Rangers goals, but what I saw after that gave me hope and a bit of a smile. Realizing that pre-season games in the NHL mean even less than they do in the NFL, I try not to read too much into events. But there were bright spots last night (other than the over/under on the rabbi’s annual list-making coming in at 6 and not 8 items)

Vishnevski is a big boy. Bad news: bloggers will have to learn to spell his surname. Good news: it’s because he’ll be dumping smaller centers and wingers on their highly efficient Reebok-reinforced rear ends. My wife’s family’s name was Vishnevski before someone on Ellis Island truncated it, and both #2 on the Devils and #1 in our house come from the same part of the Ukraine. So I’ve taken to calling Vishnevski “cousin”, lending a distinctly Perfect Strangers air to my in-game ranting. Even if we’re not related, I’m going to cheer for him. Loudly.

Zubrus is a bigger boy. Hello, forecheck. Last season I could have counted the number of times the Devils made the extra effort to hold the puck in the attack zone on one plate of Meadowlands chicken fingers; last night they were a forecheck on fire. Zubrus in particular just controlled the flow. It’s not just that Rafalksi and Gomez weren’t making bad, blind passes or failing to keep their sticks down; it was intentional, positional hockey at its best.

Gionta could score from the press box. Yeah, it was against the number three or four goalie, and yeah, it was late in the third period, but what a goal. Valiquette wasn’t faked out of his jock; he didn’t know anything had happened until there was that rocket’s red glare behind him. With some puck control (see above), Gio might break his own goal record this year.

There are still some rough edges, like who plays in the third defensive pairing and where precisely Brylin will end up. My advice (such as it is) is to take Sergei off of the checking line, and replace him with someone with more size (Clarkson), and maybe match up Brylin with Parise and Zajac until Langenbrunner’s leg is glued back on. And of course, everything changes in tone once the Lowell Devils head back to Beantown and the season’s first roster is set. And I can’t wait.