Game Wrap-ups

Skjei makes his debut, McIlrath scores as Rangers snap Oilers’ streak

rangers oilers
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It was a big night for the Rangers’ former first rounders as they reversed the result from their last meeting with the Oilers, beating them 4-2. The most notable stories could be found at the blue line, with Brady Skjei making his Rangers debut in place of the injured Dan Girardi, and Dylan McIlrath scoring his first NHL goal. Chris Kreider and JT Miller also had strong games, helping the Rangers forecheck regain some of the energy it had seemingly lost in previous mathchups. Overall the Rangers played markedly better hockey than we’ve seen from them lately, connecting on passes, playing a strong forechecking game, and getting some high quality scoring chances. While the Rangers found themselves on the penalty kill perhaps more than they would like and Edmonton pushed back somewhat late in the game, the Rangers stuck with it and have a lot to be proud of in their game tonight, especially on defense.

Rangers 1 Oilers 0

A nice cycling play up top leads to a goal for Mats Zuccarello. Boyle has the puck around the top of the cirlce and works it back up top to Rick Nash. Nash then passes it to Yandle, who’s moving along the blue line as Zuc is moving in the opposite direction. This creates a nice bit of space for Zuc, who receives the pass from Yandle and snaps the shot. A good team effort and some solid puck moving from the Rangers’ defensmen on the play leads to a goal.

Rangers 1 Oilers 1

The Oilers get one back around five minutes into the second on power play, with the Rangers giving offensive dynamo Taylor Hall just too much space to work with. Draisaitl passes to Purcell as he moves down the boards towards the goal line, with Purcell passing it right back to him as he draws the defense down and towards the boards with him. Draisaitl then passes it across to Hall as he’s bearing down the ice from the top of the circle, scoring as he moves in on Lundqvist.

Rangers 2 Oilers 1

Nothing too fancy to see here, just a great goal. Yandle puts on a nifty little move to lose the defenseman and then passes it across to Dylan McIlrath at the point. McIlrath rips a massive slap shot and hits the net for his first NHL goal.

Rangers 2 Oilers 2

Not the best moment of Brady Skjei’s debut, but these things are bound to happen no matter who’s playing the puck. A bad giveaway leads to a breakaway pass for Jordan Eberle from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Eberle has both defenders beat here and then goes one on one with Henrik Lundqvist, putting it home for the Oilers’ second tying goal of the evening.

Rangers 3 Oilers 2

A power play goal late in the second gives the Rangers the edge that they would eventually take to victory. Picking up the rebound from an outside shot along the half boards, Mats Zuccarello pulls back towards the blue line, creating a nice passing lane, before putting it down low to Rick Nash camped out just to the side of the goal. Nash then turns and puts it towards the net, whacking at his own rebound for the goal. This one was huge in terms of giving the Rangers back the momentum heading into the third.

Rangers 4 Oilers 2

With the Oilers having pulled their goalie late in the third period the Rangers did their best to stifle any offensive chances, with the pressure from the Rangers moving the play back towards Edmonton’s own end. Dom Moore takes the initial shot here but it’s blocked, with Jesper Fast getting his rebound for the empty net goal.

Score Adjusted Shot Attempts and Scoring Chances

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If you thought just from watching that the Rangers played a much better game than they have recently, these charts verify that. On the left we have score adjusted shot attempts, where we can see the Rangers and Oilers played a pretty close possession game, with the Oilers laying on a little extra pressure in the third period. However, the Ranger had the lead almost the entire night in terms of scoring chances, even if the overall flow of the game fluctuated. Really positive stuff here from the Rangers, especially given the kind of defense we’ve seen from the team in the recent past.

Shot Location
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Here we can see another indication that the Rangers played a bette all around game – the Oilers’ shot locations tended more towards the outside, with the Rangers’ being clustered closer to the net.

Individual Corsi

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While this chart might not seem to indicate great things from the Rangers this game, it’s worth noting that in terms of process they were much better. They seemed vastly improved in terms of zone exits and entries, making crisp passes, and stifling the Oilers’ offensive chances, so maybe take this one with a grain of salt.

Although it’s a relatively unimportant December hockey game, digging beneath the surface shows how big of a game this was for the Rangers. First of all this was a big win after a tough road trip and series of poor defensive performances stretching several games back beyond that. Second, this was a big night for two prominent rookie defensemen, with McIlrath scoring his first career goal on an absolute blast and both him and Brady Skjei showing overall poise and composure on and off the puck. Finally, this game was significant because it showed that the Rangers can in fact win games by playing cohesive, balanced hockey. The forecheck had more jump tonight, they were connecting on passes, and overall made it tough for Edmonton to get much going. While it’s only December, this was about as big of a game as we’ve seen these past few weeks, and the Rangers came out on top.

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  • All of a sudden the future looks bright on the blueline. If you didn’t think Stall is slowing down, watch 3rd period lowlights.

  • After thinking about last night’s game a few points:

    Skjei, who can skate is really a nice sized kid, bigger than I originally thought.

    D Mc has a hell of a shot, Girardi should never, repeat never see another second of PP , with his weak wrist shot, this kid has a cannon.

    The team ca play defense, allowing what was it 20 shots against this very talented young team.

    Dom Moore looked very comfortable out there at the center position, Fast at his side.

    Staal was awful out there, really cheesy penalties……

    D Mc and Yandle are a very nice team back there together…..

    I liked the puck movement on the PP, Nash going to the dirty area for his goal….

    The NHL has a major problem, the officiating again last night was terrible, where do they get guys???????????

    I think maybe with the moves made the last few days, the team may have opened it’s eyes, who’s next??????

    One question for AV, knowing that Girardi’s knee was hurting badly, restricting his ability to skate, why in the world did you play him, you stink????????? That move along may have cost us as many as 4 points in the standings!!!!!!!

    • What impressed me was that Skjei and McIlrath had at least one shift together in all three periods and you wouldn’t have noticed it if you weren’t looking for it. Very solid games by both rookie D-Men. I haven’t felt this good about the future along the blueline in a long time.

    • You are so right Walt abt the officiating, it is an absolute disgrace & a detriment to the league & it’s teams. You can blame Walkom, he’s a totally incompetent ref-in-chief. In fact, I would suggest that there is a grave officiating problem in all four major sports these days. While the games have progressed the officials have regressed. The NFL is a complete joke & the NBA is plagued by uncalled fouls, miscalled fouls, travelling, palming the ball etc.

  • Train to catch but here’s three take aways from last night. Dylan Mcllrath first goal a laser, heavy shot hard shot. That he drifted into position as Yandle puts it right there in his wheelhouse and he one times it. Yes, boys a one timer from a Ranger Dman hell from a player for that matter. Points two and three. The Dylan and Skjei post game interviews. Skjei said I played a strong game, my game and had fun. He talked liked he belonged, you could tell he’s been the guy were ever he’s played. He’s ready. Dylan I just love the kid. Who doesn’t love a hard working kid who has preservered. He’s humble, tough and will in time be a top Dman in this league. They (his teammates) love the kid. Re sign Yandle. He’s been so good for this kid . Train to catch.

  • Let the kids play, get them experience. This Edmonton team is not the cellar dweller it’s been the past few years. They’ve got a good group of young, talented hockey players who I think are finally coming together. I know it’s only one game, but DMC and Skjei looked really solid out there against some of the best young talent in the league.

    The mistake Skjei made … it’s gonna happen. Can’t get too crazy about it. Sometimes mistakes need to be made so they can learn from it.

    I’ve been a big supporter of DMC the last 2 years. A bunch of people on this site have said it and I agree, that defensemen take a few extra years to finally come around. Very rarely do you get a Doughty or Ekblad where you can insert them into the lineup right away and see results. Let DMC grow. He might be what we’re looking for. Tough D, strong shot, doesn’t take any sh*t. He plays 15-17 minutes a night of solid defensive hockey with a couple of howitzers on goal? I’m completely okay with that.

  • It’s going to get interesting when Klein gets back and G’s knee “heals.”

    DMc has shown he belongs – don’t know how you sit him at this point. And suddenly Skjei, after only one game, looks more comfortable than the vets.

    I suggested early in the year that a D-man rotation would ease some of the wear and tear on these guys who have played so many games over the last three cup runs. Sure it is early in the year, but who cares? it’s all about peaking in June isn’t it?

    Glen is gone but I don’t know why six-year contracts are the norm these days. It is extremely poor succession planning to give to two guys six-year deals when you have these two young studs coming up the chain.

  • During the game in Edmonton Kreider picked up the puck with his blade, then offered it up to the linesman before the face off. Instead of actually giving it to him, he yoyo’d it up and down while skating circles around him.

    I wonder why the Rangers took a bunch of phantom penalties lately.

    • On the subject of Kreider, once again he was invisible last night!!, It is driving me crazy that someone with such pure talent can not start producing?? So far this year he would have to be the biggest disappointment on the team.

      • I join you in your craziness. I don’t know, there’s just something about Kreider that’s not right. His on-ice decision-making is suspect and his passing just seems to always be off. I’m beginning to think that he might be a one-trick pony.

        • Think Kreider might just need a change to another team . But would hate to see him blossom like Rick Middleton did with Boston . It is frustrating watching him he looks to have so much talent or is he what we see .

          • Ranger 17, yes I have the same nightmare, we trade Kreider and he becomes a Rick Middleton. The only way you trade him is if you get a blue chip player in return!

        • I think he’s actually just a super big douchebag in real life. If he played for someone else, I’d probably hate the guy.

  • We have much to be excited with Mcllrath and Skjei, , without going too crazy this might begin a new ERA changing of the guard on Defense. We know Boyle is gone after this year ( wish it could be sooner) Staal is playing awful hockey, Girardi while playing hurt is commendable, he has lost a step and has many miles of wear and tear on his body. Time for Gorton and AV to get creative here, get out your blackboard and highlight the players out there that can make us stronger. I would go to Carolina and ask about one of the Staal brothers, maybe you can do a Staal for a Staal?? go to Columbus, inquire about Hartnel or Dubinsky , I am sure Torts would jump at the chance to get Girardi or Staal.

    • At this point you have to trade Staal/Girardi (if possible) for a pick or something. They can’t bring back salary. The Rangers need to clear cap space, not make a lateral move deal bringing back another big contract.

      • Hey Boston, point well taken. IMO after 30 games you can see that Boyle, Staal, Girardi are a step slower, and are no way physical enough to keep the opponents honest. Causes a trickle down effect on the rest of the team. ( not to mention making huge amounts of $$$) . I am rational enough to realize that its impossible to just wipe the slate clean and say lets go with the kids on D.Too early for that. BUT with the waiving of Stoll, it can send a message.

  • The Rangers really need to get rid of Staal. That contract was a huge mistake. It seemed like Sather was just giving out a pity deal since he already signed Girardi who’s often been worse. However, Giradi is the righty and IMO you keep the righty D man before the lefty.
    Skjei may need some work but with consistent playing time he could be ready for NHL duty full time by the playoffs.
    Staal is horrible at moving the puck these days and he turns it over way too often to be a top 4 Dman making $5+ mil per year.

  • I’m just happy to see folks coming around on Yandle. He’s an important piece to this team and should be recognized for what he brings.

    Gorton’s gotta get creative to keep him, but I wonder if Staal still has some trade value? He’s got the name recognition and clearing that contract (or Girardi’s) is all the Rangers need to create enough space to accommodate him and the RFAs.

    • Yandle has played a real solid game this season, and would be an asset going forward. Only way they can keep him though is if they can get Girardi and Staal out of town. Can it happen? Yes, you can always find a way to move a guy. Is it likely? I really don’t know. A few more games of Girardi being out and seeing how the team plays could go a long way to showing how much better they could be without Girardi slowing the play down. He’s been a warrior and a great soldier for this team so it’s hard to say move the guy, he’s got to go… but he never really fit the system.

      Not to get too off topic, and I know this isn’t really apart of a reply to your comment but I don’t feel like posting twice. That Callahan trade, and the resigning of Girardi instead of dealing him. Just that week of chaos in the organization could really end up being the reason why Hank doesn’t get a Cup in NY.

      • MSL/Callahan trade point is a stretch at best.

        What’s the whole deal “why Hank doesn’t get a Cup in NY,” like is he the only guy on this team? When people make all these points about how the team needs to win it for him, or the team should be ashamed they’re not scoring enough goals for him, they’re letting him down, yadda yadda, I think that stuff ridiculous.

        Rangers were third in the league last year at GF, and are fourth so far this year. We’re not losing because of bad offense…

      • They should only really need to move one of Girardi or Staal to be able to keep Yandle. Remember, Boyle’s $4.5M cap hit is off the books after this season also. That $9M+ in savings should be enough to bring back Yandle and get the RFAs under contract (with the departures of Moore and Stalberg taken into account as well).

        As for your other point, the Callahan trade in my opinion only helped the Rangers chances to win the Cup. MSL was a huge reason they had a real chance to win that year, and there are no lingering bad contracts on the books from that deal (the picks hurt the most, but getting a 2nd back when TB re-signed Cally helped that a bit).

        To me, signing the long term deals to Girardi and Staal have hampered the team more (and the real decision was Stralman vs. Girardi, which was maybe the worst call in the Sather era) as we can see now it is potentially going to prevent better options from playing regularly. Not to mention the big cap hits hampering their ability to improve the team.

        • MSL-Cally swap was a homerun for the Rangers. They got a goal scorer who had 1 good and 1 bad regular season, and 1 good and 1 bad playoffs. They were just in different seasons. MSL’s production during the 1st half of last year is a huge reason why the Rangers get the President’s trophy. Also not re-signing Callahan is a huge win. That contract is probably comparably bad to Staal’s

          The Girardi over Stralman choice is the toughest one in recent years and that’s 100% Sather

      • Huh?

        The Callahan trade is what almost won the Rangers the Cup. We’d have been bounced in the second round without MSL.

        Girardi is another story, but every writer I’ve ever talked to who follows the team says Girardi and Staal get that and more on the open market.

  • I felt you up until the Callahan trade. Had to be done. He wanted way to much dough. Just one to many first round picks.

  • Stepan,Grirardi to CBJ for Ryan Johnssen. He’s just what we need a big highly skilled legit number one center. Superstar in the making.Stall to Carolina for Ryan Murphy and 2nd round pick in this draft.

  • Staal it should read. Stepan contract is also a killer. Hey get rid of it now in a package with either Staal or Girardi. When Stepan comes back Boyle should continue to play first unit PP in Stepan spot. He first and foremost can one time the puck. He also makes better decisions with the puck and goes to the dirty areas. He doesn’t just float on the outside. DMc should play with Yandle on the PP with laser of a cannon shot. Yandle is such a great set up man for him. The love and trust is there.

    • Can’t get on board with any of that. Stepan’s deal is fair, maybe even a bit below market. He’s the team’s most reliable two way center.

      You’re not getting Ryan Johansen.

  • Stepan is so overrated. If you say CBJ wouldn’t do that and salary aside it shows how overrated this guy is. Boyle has showed us how that spot on the PP should be played. Solid player Stepan but no way near a being a star in the NHL. His numbers are what they are. I bet he never hit 30 goal or 50 dimes. He has no upside. At this point get rid of a young asset with a bad contract. If it’s do able. He will never live up to that contract. When a team feels they have to give a player big money because some other ass hole GM did. You’re setting your self up to owning the next bad contract. RNH for Stepan would The Oilers do that?

  • Little late to post this, but wow, terrific debut for Skjei and thrilled for McIlrath (my new favorite player! :)).

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