Before Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Flyers at Madison Square Garden, Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton told MSG Network that how Russian rookie Pavel Buchnevich performs on the ice weighs more than his acclimation to North American culture.
“I hope he has a good game tonight,” Gorton said.
In a game that likely will have a major impact on roster spots, Buchnevich was one of the more impressive players in the Rangers’ 4-2 loss. He scored his team’s first goal on a tip of Dan Girardi’s shot from the right point at 3:32 of the first period and then sent a pass to linemate Chris Kreider, who sped in and fired to beat Michael Neuvirth above his right shoulder.
Buchnevich, who tried several wraparounds, looks more comfortable each game, especially with Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, which is a good sign. Said coach Alain Vigneault: “I liked Mika’s line tonight, and there were other areas we’ll discuss.”
The Rangers gave up too many odd-man rushes, which plagued them last season, and often left Henrik Lundqvist hanging out to dry. Lundqvist played the entire game and looked a little rusty at times. Marc Staal said of the third period: “We turned the puck over like crazy. Way too much. Some new guys, new system. Needed to be a little more safe.”
The other impressive youngster for the Rangers was Cristoval “Boo” Nieves, who dressed for the first time in the NHL. Nieves, 22, had 31 points in 35 games in his senior year at Michigan and five in eight games with Hartford. The 6-3 center, who had three shots on goal, is adept at faceoffs, a trait that the Rangers can use.
Vigneault said he found some answers in evaluating players and will discuss it with the front office.
Notes & quotes: Jimmy Vesey won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award as the best rookie in camp. In the annual Traverse City Tournament last month in Michigan, he had five goals and seven points in four games. Last season’s winner, as selected by the media, was Oscar Lindberg. Anthony Duclair won in 2014. Vigneault said of Vesey: “Sort of felt training camp had caught up to him. Didn’t have the same jump as he did early on. That line [with Kevin Hayes and Nathan Gerbe] struggled more than I anticipated, to be honest.” . . . Among the regulars who did not dress: Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh . . . Zuccarello, who played in Europe for Team Norway, which qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics, and then for Team Europe in the World Cup, has not appeared in any of the six preseason games. He told Newsday that he already had played 16 games and needed more off-ice workouts . . . The Rangers finished the preseason 2-2-2.