Defense pairings: Miller-Trouba in, DeAngelo-Trouba out

The New York Rangers played a scrimmage that may determine the defense pairings when the season starts

Sunday night, New York Rangers coach David Quinn switched up his defense pairings and it looks like the Tony DeAngelo-Jacob Trouba defense pairing experiment is over.  It also looks like rookie K’Andre Miller may start the season on Trouba’s left side.

That was the headline that came out of the scrimmage.  Following Thursday night’s scrimmage when the DeAngelo-Trouba duo was on the losing side of a 6-1 score, the new pairings were Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox, Libor Hajek-Brendan Smith and Brandon Crawley-Darren Raddysh for Team White.  Team Blue’s pairings were Miller-Trouba, DeAngelo-Jack Johnson and Tarmo Reunanen-Tony Bitetto.

Quinn raved about Miller and Trouba.  “I thought it was a very good pair. I thought Trouba was the best defenseman out there tonight. By far I thought it was his best performance of training camp …he’s gradually gotten better and better and I thought tonight he was outstanding.  I really liked that d-pair, they certainly take up a lot of space.”

When asked if they would start the season, Quinn wasn’t definite, but is leaning that way. “It’s one of the reasons we wanted to see them together tonight…what type of chemistry they had, to see how they played off each other. Like I said, obviously they did a really good job tonight.”

Of course, that means that DeAngelo is back to the right side and from the scrimmage, it appears that Jack Johnson will be replacing Marc Staal on his left.  Is it permanent?  Quinn said no. “Nothing is permanent, it’s way too early into it. We’re trying to figure out whats the best combination up front and on the blueline. So it’s early…it’s a process and it’s going to take  a little bit of time. We liked what we saw today from certain pairings.”

On an interesting note, Quinn mentioned that Trouba missed three weeks of training just before camp started so he was a bit behind.  Vince Mercogliano of Lohud.com confirmed with a team source that it was due to a positive COVID-19 test.

The scrimmage lineups

While they played a game, they also used it as an opportunity to work on the penalty kill.   Here are the lineups for both squads.

Team White                             

Kreider-Howden-Buchnevich
Di Guiuseppe-Rooney-Blackwell
Lemieux-Fontaine-Greco
Gettinger

Lindgren-Fox
Hajek-Smith
Crawley-Raddysh
Robertson

Shesterkin-Wall

Team Blue

Panarin-Strome-Kakko
Lafrenière-Chytil-Gauthier
Barron-Khodorenko-Reuschhoff
Brodzinski

Johnson-DeAngelo
Miller-Trouba
Reunanen-Bitetto

Georgiev-Huska

Mika Zibanejad missed another scrimmage, though he practiced with the team. There is still no timetable for his return to game-level play.  In the meantime, the top three forward lines appear to be set.

Kaapo Kakko looks to be starting the season with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.  Quinn said that Kakko has improved. “I like his progress.  I like the games he’s played. I like the direction his game’s going. He’s in much better shape than we was last year.”

That’s one of the first times that Quinn has referred to Kakko’s conditioning.  As positive as he was about Kakko, he was noncommital about his future on that line. ” We’ll see. He’s obviously playing with two good players. Hopefully that line gels and forms some chemistry.”

Quinn was very positive about Pavel Buchnevich who they tried out on the penalty kill . “I think he was good again tonight. Ironically, we tried him on the penalty kill tonight and I thought he did a really good job. So, he continues to get better and better. He continues to grow…I really like his attitude and his approach to training camp.”

The scrimmage

For a full recap of the scrimmage, Vince Mercogliano of lohud.com has a story posted. Here are the headlines.

There wasn’t a lot of scoring in the game with Brendan Lemieux scoring the only goal in the first two periods.

Then came the moment that everyone was waiting for, a goal by Alexis Lafrenière.

 

Instead of power plays, players are awarded penalty shots.  Shesterkin stopped Kakko on his try.

It appears that Shesterkin has solidified his role as the number one goalie though Quinn repeatedly has said that there is no number one.  When asked about the goalie rotation he said that there will be factors that dictate who starts.  “Hot guys for sure, workload.  The schedule is going to dictate that.  How they’re playing, one, and two, the schedule.”

Here are the checkmarks on what we learned from the scrimmage.

√ Miller and Trouba pairing looks like the real deal
√ The defense will be almost identical in form to last season, just substitute Miller for Skjei and Johnson for Staal
√ Lafrenière can score, but we already knew that
√ Kakko will start the season on the Strome-Panarin line, but the jury is still out
√ The penalty kill is still being worked on, especially the forwards.
√ Shesterkin is the number one goalie though Georgiev will see a lot of games
√ Lemieux, Rooney, Blackwell, Howden, Di Giuseppe are the top contenders for the fourth line

The Rangers will have to make some tough roster decisions in the next two days, something that Quinn talked about .   “We have depth and there’s going to be decisions to be made on determining who is going to stay. Obviously we have a little flexibility with the taxi squad. It will make a difference. I really do like the depth in our camp.”

The Rangers will practice again on Monday followed by a day off on Tuesday.  Then it’s one more practice day before the season starts for real on Thursday against the Islanders at Madison Square Garden.  We cannot wait.