NYR/EDM Review: The Undertaker Tombstones The Rangers to Victory, McLellan Starts the Wrong Goalie Again, MatsVP, Horrible Officiating, Ranger Roster Moves & Much More

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Dylan McIlrath got the Broadway Hat after scoring his first NHL goal on Tuesday night. Photo Credit: NYR

What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. What a whirlwind week it has been for me and for your New York Rangers. After attending two games in Alberta (you can read both my NYR vs Edmonton and NYR vs Calgary blogs in the archives, located on the right hand of the site), I arrived home, back in the States, on late Monday night.

While my trip to Canada was fun, the product on the ice was not. Personally, the week was salvaged with a Giants win on Monday night. As I awoke Tuesday morning, knowing I was going to go to the game at night, all I could think was, “get these two points.”

As I was in the air on Monday, the Rangers made a bunch of moves. The Rangers waived Jarrett Stoll, who was subsequently picked up by the Minnesota Wild. Ironically enough, the Rangers will play the Wild this Thursday night. The Rangers also announced Dan Girardi was playing through pain. One of the Rangers ironmen, Girardi has logged a ton of minutes and has blocked many shots over the last few seasons. With Klein still injured, the Rangers temporarily promoted Brady Skjei from the Hartford Wolfpack. If you’ve been following me on twitter, you know I was extremely pleased with that move.

Being at the Rexall Arena on Friday night, I was disgusted leaving the place. The Rangers easily left two points on the ice. I was glad to see the Rangers have an early opportunity to exact revenge on Oilers. After all, this was the same team that called the Rangers “an organization following our footsteps,” during Glen Sather night.

What really pissed me off about the Rangers/Oilers series this season is that Oilers head coach, Todd McLellan, opted not to start Cam Talbot in either game. If you’ve been with me on this blog, you know I’m the biggest Cam Talbot fan in the world. The Oilers won the first game, at home 7-5 and lost tonight 4-2. Anders Nilsson played both games and finished with a 4.00 GAA. Talbot, who had 47 saves on Monday night, in a win against the Bruins, sat both games against the Rangers.

As a head coach, I would’ve started Talbot both games. Usually in sports, you see ex-players of a team have extraordinary games against their former clubs. You don’t think Talbot wanted to be out there?  You don’t think Ryan Callahan plays a bit harder when he sees NYR on the schedule? Athletes rarely admit it when they are active, but you hear it all the time when they are retired, they want to shine against their ex-teams. I thought McLennan really dropped the ball puck, by not starting Talbot in either game. The Oilers got lucky the first time, but got burnt, just like the economy in Edmonton, the second time around.

Cam Talbot, on the far left, could only sit there and watch his team get beat.

Speaking of Cam Talbot, it was nice of the Rangers to focus on him during a commercial break. Talbot got a standing ovation, but didn’t get the video package that Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan or Brian Boyle got last season. Then again, when half of MSG is empty, whether it be from high prices or the suits eating sushi in the Delta Club, I guess the Rangers decided making a video package wasn’t worth it. Don’t worry TALBOT NATION, I led section 115 with a round of applause and a “TAL-BOT” chant!

Unfortunately for me and Talbot Nation, Cam Talbot is a thing of the past. However, the Rangers future is looking bright. On Tuesday night, we got to see perhaps the next McDonagh/Girardi of the next ten seasons, with Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei in the line-up.

The Rangers headed into this game with the Oilers after going 0-1-1 on their Western Canada road-trip, the same road-trip they swept last season. With the Capitals leap-frogging into first-place and the Islanders neck and neck, the Rangers needed a big W in MSG. The Rangers did just that, with a full 60 minutes of competitive hockey.

Rick Nash was given the “A” with Girardi injured.

There were many positives to take away from the Rangers 4-2 victory over the Oilers. Rick Nash played hard and got a goal on his own rebound. Dylan McIlrath notched his first NHL goal. Brady Skjei looked like an NHLer. Zuccarello continued his amazing season with another goal. The Rangers PK was flawless in the third period, even after the refs fucked them three straight times. Lundqvist held a lead. Yandle continued his strong offensive play. McDonagh played both sides of the ice strongly. Lindberg shot the puck well and finished his men strong with some big hits.

As far as the negatives, Kevin Hayes continues to drive me nuts. The motherfucker will not shoot the puck. Sitting in section 115, where the Rangers shoot twice, I saw Hayes pass up a shot twice and attempted to pass the puck. I say attempted because both times, the passes turned into turnovers. I blame Hayes 100%.

I don’t care if Hayes only has 1 1/4 seasons in the league. Lindberg has no problem shooting and he’s a rookie. Hayes has to get over being a young gun on this team and shoot the puck when the opportunity exists. No one will call him a puck hog if he has an open look at the net.

Another youngin’ on this team, JT Miller made three costly turnovers in this game. He needs to settle down. He shows much promise for the Rangers, as does Jesper Fast, who seemingly has assumed the Carl Hagelin role of scoring empty netters. Empty Net goals are usually over-looked. They shouldn’t be. What it means is that you can finish a game. No reason to sweat being 6 on 5. Put the game away! Fast did just that, yet again.

Zucc is the hottest blueshirt right now.

MatsVP Zuccarello continued his strong play by scoring the first goal of the game, a goal assisted by Nash & Yandle. Zucc scored 5 minutes into the game, by putting a puck over the left shoulder over the anti-Talbot, Anders Nilsson.

During the Rangers recent slump, we’ve seen the Rangers either play sloppy or flat. Tonight, the Rangers played hard-nosed hockey and while they did have a few turnovers, as a team will always have against top-notch competition in the NHL, they stayed strong throughout. The Rangers were able to play great defense and with neither team getting off many shots in the first, kept the score at 1-0.

On an aside, for the people who love drinking and drinking stories like me, I decided to go with the $10, 25 oz “heroin” Budweiser beers for today’s game. They tasted like shit, but with all the good beers located 180 degrees away from me, I decided to stick with the official beer of the Saddledome, rather than walking through the sea of Walking Dead walkers during intermission. I also got a free tall boy Rangers koozie too, so at least I had that going for me too!

With Lindberg catching a penalty for hooking Lauri Korpikoski, the man who scored a hat-trick against the Rangers in Edmonton, Taylor Hall was able to beat Lundqvist for a PPG. 1-1 tie.  A disappointing tie at that, because the Rangers had multiple opportunities to jump head to 2-0, 3-0, but couldn’t find the opportune loose puck. From my vantage point at the game, it seemed that Nilsson was looking behind him all night after every shot. He did not ooze confidence at all.

“The Undertaker” Dylan McIlrath!

With the score at 1-1, and with the chance of the Oilers threatening to take the lead, leave it to “The Undertaker”, Dylan McIlrath, to score his first NHL goal, smacking a slapshot, after a pass from Keith Yandle, past Nilsson and right to the twine at the back of the net.

McIlrath has been a hell of a project for the New York Rangers. He’s the man who the Rangers hope could anchor this defense as the years move on. Known mostly for his fighting, hence the Undertaker nickname, number 6 has been working with a Rangers defenseman legend, in #23, Jeff Beukeboom. BOOOOOOOOOOOK, has helped McIlrath’s offensive game. This NHL is no longer a goon’s NHL. You need to be able to play both ends. After getting his first point during the road trip, via the assist, McIlrath got his first NHL goal tonight. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

Just like the wrestler The Undertaker, who he’s nicknamed after, McIlrath is maturing from a brawler to a skilled artisan & craftsman. He’s not taking as many penalties as he used to and he has solidified himself as an NHLer, even if it’s a third-pair D-man for now. The best is yet to come for this stallion.

However, before the Rangers could enter the locker-room up 2-1, Jordan Eberle scored on a breakaway goal, with less than two minutes into the period. Before you can blame the defense for the turnover, I remind you that Lundqvist demanded to be the highest paid goalie in the league. If he can’t stop these breakaways (and he has a fucking terrible record in the shootout’s) then maybe he isn’t worth 13% of payroll.

With the score 2-2, all you could do is groan as the Rangers were about to enter the third period. However, with less than 60 ticks left to go in the second, the Oilers were busted with too many men on the ice. The most polarizing Ranger of them all, number 61, Rick Nash, was able to get his own rebound and beat Nilsson for what would be the game winning goal. 3-2 Rangers, entering the third.

Lundqvist wasn’t challenged much and finished with 18 saves on 20 shots.

You know my feelings about Lundqvist already. Amazing goalie. If he wins a Cup, he will be considered the best goalie in Rangers history. Until then, Richter has that title. Lundqvist was playing head and shoulders above every other goalie in the league during the Rangers hot start. However, after Turkey day, Lundqvist came back to earth a bit and wasn’t able to save the Rangers from some of their putrid efforts offensively. In a game the Rangers should’ve done more with the puck, Lundqvist was able to buckle down and keep the Oilers scoreless in the third period.

The third period was a period that would drive you nuts, not just as a Rangers fan, but as a fan of the NHL in general. The referees should be fined and suspended for their calls. Staal was called for two penalties back-to-back. The first penalty was a phantom slash, where Anton Lander just threw his stick on the ice. After the Rangers killed that penalty, Staal was called again for a high stick on Leon Draisaitl. If anything Leon Draisaitl should’ve been called for embellishment. Luckily, for us, the Rangers killed that penalty too. The refs weren’t done. They then called JT Miller for high sticking on Eric Gryba. Another BS penalty. The Rangers killed that too.

Maybe the refs figured they should make up some calls, as they would call a questionable holding call on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  Honestly, I’m looking for an explanation from the NHL for these penalties. NHL has been far and beyond better than the other major sports, when it comes to their referees. The NFL is atrocious. NBA has refs fixing games. MLB can’t get balls & strikes right. The NHL needs to police their officials a bit better, because these last two seasons have been a nightmare. Bettman is a fucking clown, but to save any dignity that he has left, he needs to crack the whip a bit.

Fortunately, none of these horrendous penalties led to any goals. Then again, neither PP was that great in the third period. Lundqvist only faced two shots on the 6 minutes of PK. You  could only be happy that the horrible officiating didn’t play a factor in the final score.

Jesper Fast sealed the deal with an empty netter, with four seconds remaining in the third period.

After the terrible officiating, the Oilers pulled Nilsson very late. I’m surprised McLellan pulled Nilsson with only a minute remaining. Then again, this is the same nimrod who decided to start Nilsson in the first place. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked. After a scoring chance, Fast was able to put the puck in the net to finish the game, giving the Rangers a 4-2 win.

As a result of the win, the Rangers sit in second place in the Metropolitan, but with plenty of questions to be answered.

Who gets scratched when Stepan returns? If it’s up to me, it’s SEE YA ETEM. You know my feelings on Etem already, so I won’t reiterate them. He is not a good fit for this team and quite frankly, is questionable for an NHL roster. If he couldn’t play the wing, I think he would’ve been cut instead of Stoll.

McIlrath is playing the best hockey of his career. When Girardi & Klein return what happens? If it’s up to me, you bench Boyle. However, Boyle is being paid a shitload of cash, so I don’t see it happening. I don’t see a team dealing for his contract either. It’s tough to bench McIlrath right now.

Many Ranger fans would like to see Girardi dealt because of his turnovers, little offense and his contract. Again though, who would take that deal? The Rangers can’t cover any salary in a trade, like the way the Coyotes are covering Yandle for the Rangers.

Speaking of Yandle, looking ahead, will the Rangers give him $6 million plus a season to stay?

Tanner Glass has played his way as a fourth liner in this line-up. Where Etem and Stoll didn’t fit, Glass does. Isn’t that amazing how that played out?

Stoll was considered more expendable than Dom Moore because Moore can play the wing. However, Moore is not on the score sheet as the rest of the fourth liners. Is he worth trading, especially at his age? Or do you want him around for the playoff experience?

Skjei didn’t do anything to make the stat sheet but showed he belongs in this league. The Rangers have a logjam at defense right now. He will get his time, but will GM Gorton follow his predecessor and trade young talent for a big name come the deadline?

The Rangers bench was happy for #6

After a great win and solid effort, the Rangers have a back-to-back on the road, challenging the Wild on Thursday and the Jets on Friday. I fucking hate the Jets of the NFL and despise them in the NHL too. A big fuck you to Dustin Byfuglien! The big test then comes Sunday, when the Rangers host the Capitals.

The Rangers showed on Tuesday night that they can win any game they are in. Again, it’s playoffs, playoffs, playoffs with this team. As much as you can’t go nuts about a loss with this team, you can’t go bat shit crazy about a win either. We are four months from the playoffs, but until then, let’s hope the Rangers can at least score home ice for the first round.

I should be back late Thursday night! Until then, LET’S GO RANGERS!

Sean McCaffrey
BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTheMiC on the twitter

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