Yes it’s early in the season, but the Rangers need to stop this disturbing trend – 1000 ways to lose you defenseman.
Broken hand, separated shoulder, bruised foot, stupid shot to an opposing player’s head.
It’s all there.
Sure Halloween was only a few days ago, but this isn’t a haunted house the Rangers want to ride on.
So tonight, they had to turn to some of their blue line youth in Conor Allen and Dylan “The Undertaker” McIlrath and hope for the best.
At the end of the 4-3 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues, you had to be somewhat pleased.
“They were good,” said defenseman Marc Staal – one of only two Rangers blue liners that were on the opening night roster. “I thought they both played confident, made some good plays.”
It’s going to be interesting for Alain Vigneault over the next month as the Rangers wait for Dan Boyle and Ryan McDonagh to heal. The coach will have some time to see if he has some youthful depth, which can possibly open up the possibility of trading a veteran like Boyle and open up space on the salary cap.
More importantly, the team gets to see if a player like McIlrath is an NHL player or a first round bust. Drafted 10th overall in 2010, he had a rash of knee injuries over the past few years, this may be his time to shine or be pushed aside.
But the 22 year-old stay at home defenseman will never light the lamp in scoring and as we saw tonight in his fight with Ryan Reeves, he will be known for his fighting skills more than anything else.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The Rangers could use some toughness.
However, Vigneault’s system stresses speed and quickness and it remains to be seen if McIlrath has those skills long term. If he shows he can work in an NHL system, he could find himself on the trading block.
And tonight he looked pretty good.
More importantly, the Rangers seem resilient when it comes to this type of adversity.
“Every game is a different type of battle and we are trying to find a way,” said Martin St. Louis. “And we have come back. We have stayed in the game against some pretty good hockey teams. We are trying to keep building it up and gradually you get guys back, but again you lose guys along the way.”
Thankfully we are seeing the depth in the Ranger system now. Over the past few seasons, Glen Sather and Gordie Clark have done a pretty good job with drafting. There have been some good picks like Chris Kreider and some others that we had to wait on like McIlrath.
Now is the time for the Undertaker and so far, so good.