The Rangers scored three goals in the third period to defeat Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the first-ever Victoria Cup, 4-3, today in Bern, Switzerland. As it was throughout their now-concluded preseason schedule (1-5-0 in North American, 2-0-0 in Bern), the Rangers' performance certainly left plenty of question marks as they head into Saturday and Sunday's regular-season openers against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Prague, Czech Republic.
"We were certainly behind the eight-ball, to say the least for good portion of the game," coach Tom Renney said on a conference call after Ryan Callahan scored the game-winner with 21 seconds left after he intercepted a pass at Metallurg's blue line. "As much as we tried to generate some offense, make some things happen, try to get ourselves back in the game, at any time it's not what you take it's what you leave, certainly on the bigger rink. We got back to some north-south hockey, whack some pucks in. It was good for morale. I did think it showed some character."
Yes, but did the Rangers show enough even-strength offense during the preseason? Were the slow starts both today and yesterday in an 8-1 win over SC Bern (six third-period goals) symptomatic of a team that will struggle against NHL competition? Will Renney's current line configurations - Markus Naslund-Scott Gomez-Chris Drury, Nigel Dawes-Brandon Dubinsky-Nikolai Zherdev, Petr Prucha-Lauri Korpikoski-Ryan Callahan and Patrick Rissmiller-Blair Betts-Dan Fritsche give enough balance over four lines? Will Wade Redden provide enough defense to allow Renney to pair him with Michal Rozsival? Did Henrik Lundqvist, shaky in the first period today and in his last North American action, see enough time in the preseason, as Renney worries he hasn't?
Renney said he knows what he'd like to do with his opening day roster - due to the NHL offices Friday - and will discuss his ideas with GM Glen Sather in the morning. The healthy scratches today were Aaron Voros, Colton Orr, Fredrik Sjostrom, Brian Fahey, Corey Potter and Miika Wiikman.
Some highlights of the call:
Renney praised Drury's leadership in scoring two goals to rally the Rangers. On a related note (hint, hint) Renney said he would certainly name his captain by Saturday's opener, probably not tomorrow though. At this point, I'd say it would be a shock if Drury doesn't get the 'C.'
Renney added it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to have the two Russians - D Dmitri Kalinin, a former Metallurg player, and Zherdev accept the Victoria Cup, though Renney admitted the three alternate captains for the game - Drury, Gomez and Naslund - probably had a lot to do with it.
So, any thoughts. Are the Rangers ready for the NHL season?