Bridgeport, Conn. – Head coach Gerard Gallant said the most important thing for his Rangers in their final preseason game on Saturday night against the Islanders was to recover.
That goal was scrapped at the end of the second period, when Ryan Strom collided with Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield during a Rangers power play. The Rangers’ 1B center, moaning in pain, immediately took off his glove and began supporting his right wrist.
Strom missed the remainder of the game, which the Blueshirts won 5–4 in overtime on Philip Chitill’s third goal of the night, which the team described as an upper body injury.
After the game, Gallant didn’t seem overly concerned about Strom’s injury. Koch said he “doesn’t think” it would prevent the center from opening Wednesday night in Washington.
“He’s going to be fine,” Gallant said as Rangers finished the season with a 4-2 record. “Just the upper body, but nothing too serious that we don’t think.”
Facing a version of the Islanders that the Rangers can expect to see during the regular season, Strom stepped up and was dominant through two periods. Furthermore, Rangers were cautious and opted to sit their top guns in Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibnejad and Chris Kreider.
Strom recorded a goal and an assist before his injury, helping Rangers take a 2-1 lead as they entered the third period. After sending off a stellar cross-ice pass to Vitaly Kravtsov for a power-play goal to tie the score 1–1 in the first period, Strom caught a shot from K’Andre Miller in the middle frame in just 39 seconds. Buried the rebound.
But it was Chittil’s hat-trick, involving the winner 2:06 in overtime on a power play, that ensured the Rangers victory.
“To me, it matters,” Cheetill said of recording a hat-trick at the presidency. “Of course, it’s still the goal, we won the game, it’s still preseason. Everyone can say it’s pre-season, but to our confidence, it’s huge. We’re glad we made the preseason this. Kind of finished.”
The 22-year-old Czech said Precision has been an important time for Rangers to simultaneously delegate and get used to Gallant’s new system. At the start of training camp, Strom explained that Gallant’s system is “very simple”.
“I agree with Stromer,” Chittil said. “we [one system for] Three years in a row, we had the same system and now, in three games, we have to change it. We have to change our mindset. Sometimes you drive by our instincts and sometimes you forget what you should be doing right now.
“It was a good season for us and [we] Just get ready for Wednesday.”
Under Gallant, there’s just more freedom to play, which keeps players from thinking too much. Gallant insists on executing his players, supporting the puck, and police himself. The 58-year-old is also far less handsome and has more of an old-school attitude than his predecessor, David Quinn.
Gallant said he thinks the Rangers’ learning curve has gone well with his system, noting that it will take time for the team to really sync up.
“Guys just get used to what they do and when they do it all the time they are creatures of habit,” Koch said. “I don’t think it’s a big, big deal. It’s not a big, big difference, but it takes time and they’ve been good in the last few games.”