Beating the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 last night was absolutely fantastic, but that was what happened last night. The Rangers must now turn their focus to taking their third straight win and getting something special going on this road trip with their second game in two nights. Hopefully the Rangers will be coming into tonight's game buzzing with confidence after getting offense from all over the lineup and scoring nearly half a dozen even strength goals against a quality hockey club.
Tonight the Rangers will fly about an hour and a half east of Vancouver to play Taylor Hall's Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. The last time these teams played the Rangers found a way to lose to what is probably the worst team in the Western Conference on November 9th. The Oilers beat the Rangers 3-1 (one of the goals was an empty netter) and out-shot them at Madison Square Garden 33 to 21. Defeating the New York Rangers, last season's Eastern Conference Champions, is just one of the Oilers' 7 wins this season. That's right, 7 wins for the Oilers... and the Rangers are one of the teams that has lost to them. It still stings doesn't it?
The Oilers are 7-18-5 which is pretty damn bad, right? Well, they're 1-6-3 over their last 10 games and are currently riding a 3 game losing streak into tonight's contest against the Blueshirts. The Oilers have the worst goal differential in the NHL and are the third lowest-scoring hockey club in the league. However, the Oilers are a much better team at home ice than they are on the road. On home ice the Oilers are 5-10-1 compared to their record of 2-8-4 when they're traveling. Are you starting to get the picture here? This is a game that the Rangers have to win if they don't want to cry themselves to sleep tonight. When you play the bottom dwelling teams of the league you need to do what all of the other clubs have been doing; outplay them, take your 2 points, and move on.
The Oilers rely heavily on their big, young, household-name forwards, but none of them are having particularly great seasons, and the highest goal scorer on the club is Hall who has 8 in 24 games. With that being said, they are still dangerous players and the Rangers have to make sure to matchup well against them and treat them like any other dangerous top line in the league.
- Taylor Hall: 8 goals, 10 assists.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 7 goals, 12 assists.
- Jordan Eberle: 6 goals, 12 assists.
The Oiler's power play leaves a lot to be desired at 13.2%, it is easily surpassed by their penalty killing which is 20th in the league and has an efficacy of 79.1%. Even with the Rangers' lackluster special teams early in the 2014-14 season, they outclass the Oilers handily both on the man advantage and while shorthanded. Still, it would be a mistake to give the young skilled players and former Ranger Benoit Pouliot too much time and space on the man advantage. The Rangers can't afford to make the same mistakes they made on November 9th at the Garden. They have to keep their discipline, show respect to the Oilers' key players, and set up a shooting range on the Edmonton net which is protected by dismal goaltending and a very weak blue line group. Can you name all six of the Oiler's defensemen? Of course you can't. Yes, this is the team that the Rangers lost to in November.
The Blueshirts cannot afford to take this game lightly and make the same mistakes that they made in a little over a month ago in the City. There are plenty of games that we all say the Rangers "should" win, but this is one of those games that the Rangers really have to win given their serious issues with inconsistency this season and how close they are to slipping back into being a .500 hockey club. Will they come out swinging tonight after dominating the Canucks last night or will they come out flat and look unprepared and as if they forgot to bring their offense to Edmonton? Hang in there until 9:30 PM tonight guys and gals, hopefully we'll see the Rangers bring their best hockey against a poor hockey team and grab 2 points that they can't afford to leave on the table. Let's go Rangers.