Rangers Finish Preseason with a Thrilling Victory; Ace Isles Litmus Test, “Baby Blueshirts” Impress, Chytil’s Hat Trick, Kakko = NYR’s Preseason MVP; Sjoberg, “Trouba The Terrible” Strikes Again, Injuries, Rangers Season Preview & More

While it was Filip Chytil who picked up a hat trick in the Rangers 5-4 overtime win over the Islanders on Saturday night, in my opinion, Kaapo Kakko is the MVP of this Rangers preseason.

Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. “It’s only the preseason and blah blah blah”, but if you weren’t hooting and hollering on Saturday night, I may have to question your Rangers fandom!

On Saturday night, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Rangers defeated the Islanders, 5-4 in overtime, to win their final game of this preseason. In my eyes, this was a huge statement victory & a step into the right direction for the Rangers, and for several reasons at that:

— Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant didn’t dress his top three forwards (or at the very least – the top three big names and most expensive forwards), as Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin had the night off. Conversely, Islanders head coach Barry Trotz had his entire opening night line-up playing in this game.

— Despite Jacob Trouba playing (on the ice for all four Islander goals and a Trouba who finished with a plus/minus of -2), the Rangers were able to respond after every Islander goal allowed, including responding after a crushing late third period goal from Mathew Barzal.)

— For the “baby” Rangers (should you find that term appropriate when talking about people who are 19 years of age and older), all of them delivered. Kakko looked great. Chytil looked great. Gauthier looked great. Kravtsov looked great. And outside of a brutal turnover committed during the first period, Alexis Lafreniere, the crown jewel of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, didn’t look half-bad either. (Two assists in this game, including assisting on the game-winner.)

— A word that I’ve been using a lot during this preseason is the word “resolve”. Once again, the Rangers showed their “resolve”, as after being dominated by the Islanders during a poorly played first period, the Rangers didn’t give up, fought back, and as you know by now, won the game in overtime.

— In what was extremely noticeable to me, for the second game in a row, the Rangers scored five consecutive goals without Hart Trophy contender Artemi Panarin being involved in any of them. Again, this shows us that the Rangers can score goals whenever Panarin is the defensive focus of the other team and/or having an off night. While Panarin will be expected to lead the team in scoring this season; you also can’t expect “The Breadman” to have multi-point games in 82 straight games either.

— The Rangers, ever since the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff bubble (sans the second game from the 2020-21 season), had struggled immensely against the Islanders. The first period of this game felt like more of the same, only for the Rangers to fight back and win – and without three of their top stars to boot. Even if the Rangers had lost this game, whether late in the third period or in the overtime period – this was a litmus test victory. While that may sound like “loser talk”, the final scores of these preseason games don’t matter – playing well does. Fortunately, for us Ranger fans – we saw both.

I didn’t know if Trouba could look any worse after the Rangers 7-1 loss to the Devils from eight days ago, but he sure did his best to “top” that performance tonight. Looking ahead, I don’t know if this Trouba/Miller pairing will last, especially if this duo doesn’t improve once these games start to matter. In addition, I don’t know if you want to drag Miller down either, by being saddled with the overrated and overpaid “talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk” Trouba. Photo Credit: M$GN

While I’ll get more into the game below; when you give up four goals, you obviously have some issues. For one night, these goals allowed may be forgotten, especially when the Rangers score five and win the game. However, you can’t bank on scoring five goals every night – not in the regular season and certainly not in the playoffs.

When it comes to Alexandar Georgiev (28 saves on 32 shots for a save percentage of .875), I thought he looked alright. Some of the saves he made were tough. He denied a breakaway (usually his kryptonite) and stopped some two-on-one’s too. Some of the goals allowed weren’t on him either. However, as the game got into the latter stages of the third period, you could see he was buckling under the pressure a bit, by overplaying his position, losing his stick, jumping around all over the place, etc.

In fact, during the third period, and with a score of 4-3 favoring the Rangers; I commented on social media that the Rangers would need five goals to win. You just didn’t have faith in Georgiev locking it down – especially with “Trouba the Terrible” on the ice.

I know Jacob Trouba has been in my cross-hairs during this entire preseason, where truthfully, that’s not my intent. However, you have to call a spade a spade and Trouba has not played well at all during this preseason. While I have a glass half-full mentality on this site, I also don’t have my head buried in the sand either. In short – I won’t lie to you.

This game was just like any other Trouba game from this preseason. During multiple skirmishes/post-whistle physical theatrics, once again, Trouba was just watching, as guys like Kevin Rooney and Morgan Barron took on the Islander bruisers.

In fact, I bet you that Trouba was looking forward to the Tyson Fury/Deontay Wilder fight that took place late Saturday night too, because after all – no one watches a fight better than Jacob Trouba. Perhaps even worse than that, was Trouba watching the Islanders tying the game with only 51 seconds remaining in the third period.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – while I’ll support whatever happens, giving Trouba the captaincy would almost be as big of a mistake as the contract that previous Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton gave him during the summer of 2019. Give the “C” to Fox or Kreider.

After an amazing preseason and his new look, the expectations for Kakko to deliver in his junior NHL season have increased. Photo Credit: M$GN

Let me say this one last time here in 2021 – “it’s only the preseason and blah blah blah.” However, while the results of the games don’t matter – the performances out of these players do. For Kaapo Kakko, looking for life-changing money this upcoming off-season, it’s imperative he does well this season.

During this summer, at the height of “Eichel-Mania”, I suggested that if the Rangers could make a Kakko for Eichel trade, I would do it. (In fact, Larry Brooks then echoed this opinion three days after I wrote a blog in support of this idea.) Now, you’d have to be crazy to trade Kakko for Eichel straight-up. I guess that’s why I’m writing this blog with a beer in my hand and why Chris Drury is in the big seat!

(Of note: it’s my pledge to you to never mention Jack Eichel again, until something happens with his situation. I’m so over the story and I feel like it’s a waste of time to talk about him until he returns, whether it’s with Buffalo, for Team USA during the Olympics or elsewhere. I just can’t get caught up in the daily Eichel “will he or won’t he” chatter anymore.)

For every hockey player whose financial futures are uncertain (especially players on the fringe of being sent down to the minor leagues), these preseason games can make-or-break them. As talked about a few blogs ago, the salary differences between an AHL player and an NHL player are quite vast.

While Kakko’s spot on this roster was never in jeopardy, his value and where he slots on the roster was. Yes, these preseason games aren’t a defined indicator of what will happen in the regular season and/or the playoffs, but without question – Kakko is going to be a player to watch this season. Even better, once these games count, Kakko should be a factor, and not a player experiencing growing pains.

Lars-Erik Sjoberg, captain of the WHA Avco Cup winning Winnipeg Jets, and who had ties with fellow Rangers & Swedish alum Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson, was part of the Rangers organization at the time of his tragic passing. Photo Credit: CBC.ca

In 1987, following the death of Lars-Erik Sjoberg, a Sjoberg who was the top European scout for the Rangers at the time of his passing (Sjoberg passed away at the young age of 43, following a bout with cancer), the Rangers founded the “Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award”, an award that honors the Rangers top rookie of the preseason/training camp. More than likely, Nils Lundkvist will win this award in 2021.

However, when talking about this award, and if you replace the word “rookie” with “player” – Kakko was easily the team’s MVP of this preseason. While yes, that distinction and $567675576858568585685678 (I could be off by a dollar or two here), will get you a bottle of water at M$G; at the same time, Kakko’s play from this preseason was uplifting and will most likely motivate him going into the regular season.

After two so-so seasons out of Kakko, where you could even use the word “disappointing” when describing them (keep in mind both seasons were pandemic-plagued), at the present moment, he’s easily playing the best hockey of his young career. We can only hope this carries over into the regular season, and with Kakko looking bigger, faster and stronger than ever before – it’s highly likely that he will.

For the first time since Kakko first joined the Rangers, once the Islanders tied the game at 4-4, I 100% believed in Kakko and thought he’d score the game winning goal. I said as much on social media at the time for those who need proof!

While that didn’t happen exactly, it was Kakko who drew a penalty in overtime and then set-up Chytil’s game winning goal. Kakko is becoming a game-changer, and with Kakko starting this season on a line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome – the best is yet ahead, or so I believe!

Ryan Strome, pictured here during a game from last season, was one of the few Ranger “Fat Cats” who played on Saturday night. Strome played remarkably, scoring one goal and picking up one assist, before sitting out the third period as a precautionary measure. Photo Credit: NHL Stats

There are a lot of things to be positive about as the Rangers enter this 2021-22 season. While preseason success doesn’t necessarily equate regular season success, players like Sammy Blais, Filip Chytil and others seem primed for big seasons.

In addition, Ryan Reaves, who received that nasty injury during the fifth game of the preseason (P.K. “Slew-ban”), is expected back sooner than later. According to Gerard Gallant, Reaves may be available on opening night, which is something that the TNT Network is hoping for, as they promote a “Wilson vs Reaves” heavyweight tilt.

Before getting into Saturday night’s win even further, let me get the PLUGS segment out of the way, and then get into everything else in Rangerstown, USA. (Feel free to scroll past the PLUGS segment if you choose, but hey, I got a book to promote here!)

The hardcover version of “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden” is now on sale. I may have mentioned this in the past.

The first plug of tonight’s blog –  the mandatory plug for my new book, “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden”.

As mentioned previously, the book is now available in hardcover, in paperback and in Kindle formats. To purchase a copy of the book, visit this link:


For those still looking for signed paperback versions of the book, I have 21 copies left for sale for $25 (includes shipping price) through me directly. Here is all the information on that:

Order “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden” Book Today

Lastly, before getting into the meat and potatoes of tonight’s manifesto, here are my last few blogs in case you missed them:

BCBS For 10/7: Chris Kreider Puts The Rangers On His Back; Cements Case For The “C”, NYR/NJD Game Recap, Reaves Injured By Cowardly Subban; Social Media Doctors, The “Eye-Test”, Blais’ Highlight Reel Goal, Mr. Norris, Igor’s Strongest Start Yet, NYR Line-Up Set, Fischler Report & More


BCBS For 10/3: “The Many No Saints of Newark” & “The Bishops of Boston”! Rebounding Rangers Play Best Preseason Game Yet; Knock Off “Perfection Line” Bruins, Lundkvist, Kakko, Blais, Rooney, Lafreniere & Wall Step Up Big, Jacob Trouba Talks the Talk But Hasn’t Walked the Walk, Gallant, Roster Cuts, Goalie Log-Jam & More


NYR/BOS 9/28 Preseason Game Recap & Thoughts: Panarin Puts on a Hart Trophy Finalist Performance; Beefed Up Kakko Shines Too, Zac Jones Makes His Case for a Roster Spot; Hajek Does Not, Special Teams, Reaves & Miller Show Up; Trouba Watches, NYR Goalies, Henrik Lundqvist Night Ticket Prices Go Through the Rafters & More

Thankfully, we’ll never have to suffer through another NBC “Joel Osteen Pregame Show” again!

This was a funny broadcast for a few reasons:

— Since the M$G Network didn’t have any studio pregame shows during this preseason; instead, the network aired live horse races prior to puck drop. I’ll take horse racing over Joel Osteen and those Sunday NBC “pregame shows” any day of the week, and yes, twice on Sunday too!

— Despite this being a home game for the nomadic Islanders, as this game was played in Bridgeport, Connecticut, home of the Islanders AHL team, the Sound Tigers (what the hell is a Sound Tiger anyway?); it were Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti on the call, and not the Islander announcers, who are Brendan Burke and Butch Goring.

— Even better, while I wasn’t there and I’m judging this based on what I saw on TV, the crowd make-up for this game felt like 80% Ranger fans, 10% empty seats and 10% Islander fans. In fact, the “POTVIN SUCKS” whistle broke out not even a minute into the game.

— Think about that. The Islanders have a home game and their own network tells the home announcers to take the night off. Instead of Goring and Burke receiving a paycheck, Rosen and Micheletti got paid instead. For those who aren’t aware, this is just another example of why the Islanders are a Mickey Mouse organization!

— Due to this game being played inside of an AHL arena, an arena that’s really not made for TV, Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti were standing about one foot away from the camera, where Rosen’s noggin was really on full display during the broadcast.

Of course, none of this stuff has anything to do with the game, but it was entertaining for me.

Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller, the Ranger rookies from last season, have had up-and-down games during this preseason. Photo Credit: NYR

With most of the top stars getting the night off, and after recalling the previously sent to Hartford Greg McKegg, Gallant used this line-up for the sixth and final tilt of the preseason:

FIRST LINE: Lafreniere/Strome/Kakko

SECOND LINE: Goodrow/Chytil/Kravtsov

THIRD LINE: Blais/Rooney/Gauthier

FOURTH LINE: McKegg/Barron/Hunt

FIRST D-PAIR: Lindgren/Fox

SECOND D-PAIR: Miller/Trouba

THIRD D-PAIR: Tinordi/Nemeth

GOALIE: Georgiev

Once again, Georgiev beat the Islanders, something that he usually does whenever playing these losers. That said, this win wasn’t carried by Georgiev, but it’s a win nonetheless for the Bulgarian.

This game, and really the first period in general, didn’t start off pretty. Just three minutes and change into the period, Lafreniere made a blind no-look pass from the center line, a pass that resulted in a turnover for the Islanders and seconds afterwards – a goal for Islanders captain Anders Lee. 1-0 bad guys just like that.

I’ll admit, after this goal, I thought that the Rangers were in for a long night. Of note, on this Lee goal, the puck deflected off of Trouba too. Also of note, there have been no reports about Georgiev attacking Lafreniere in the tunnel either.

Compounding to the frustration was that the Islanders continued to play tough against the Rangers, where even Ross Johnston was pushing Jacob Trouba around with ease. The only Rangers offense you saw within the first seven minutes of this game was the team either going offside or sailing the puck for icing calls. However, Kakko, your preseason MVP, finally put a shot on goal and a good one at that.

With 11:33 remaining in the period, Ryan Lindgren, who wasn’t exactly that hot in this game, took a slashing call. The Rangers penalty kill would survive this Islanders attack, with Georgiev making several key saves during this penalty kill.

Julien Gauthier, who had many chances tonight, but once again didn’t score; started to stand out in the final minutes of this period and from this point on. However, Gauthier’s inability to score goals weren’t on him tonight, as he drew three penalties in this game, including one with 4:21 to go in the first period, as Pelech jumped all over Gauthier as Gauthier was going to the net. In fact, you could argue this was Gauthier’s best preseason game yet – something he truly needed to increase his worth to both Gallant and to the Rangers as an organization.

Similar to the Lundkvist/Jones roster spot battle, which was never a fair fight, as it was always Lundkvist’s spot to lose; both Gauthier and Vitali Kravtsov are competing for a roster spot on the third line, where to reiterate, just like Lundkvist, the spot is Kravtsov’s to lose.

While Gauthier played extremely well tonight, for him personally (and not for the Rangers), it had to sting a little bit when Vitali Kravtsov scored the first Rangers goal of the game, a power-play goal created by Gauthier drawing the penalty, after Kravtsov finished on a one-timer after a beautiful cross-ice pass delivered by Ryan Strome.

In other words, Gauthier drew the penalty, but it was the person he’s in a competition with getting the glory with the PPG. And while all of these guys root for team success, it’s just human nature to get a down feeling when someone you’re competing with does well, especially with the differences between an AHL and an NHL salary.

The Rangers may carry Gauthier regardless, especially if Reaves is unable to go at the start of the season. Photo Credit: Getty Images

After twenty minutes, the scoreboard read 1-1, as the Rangers rebounded after their crappy start, a start that can be explained by the two rosters that were on the ice. However, after a shaky start, the Rangers never looked back.

Just 39 seconds into the second period, Kakko got a puck to Miller, Miller bombed one from deep and after Sorokin made the initial save, Ryan Strome cashed in on the rebound. 2-1 GOOD GUYS just like that, as Strome now had a multi-point game and also showed off his offensive awareness.

After killing a fugazi cross-check penalty assessed to Sammy Blais, the Rangers continued to play well, as the two rivals played something like eight straight minutes of whistle-free hockey. The young Rangers, playing against an Islander roster that was one goal away from the Stanley Cup Final last season, held their own. Impressive. More impressive – at the ten minute mark of the second period, the Islanders only had one shot on goal.

With 9:25 to go in the period, Pelech went off to the penalty box again. While the Rangers didn’t score on this power-play, just as he has done all preseason, Sammy Blais stood out. Blais was screening Sorokin as if his life depended on it. This would pay off later on in the game. For all of these “Blais is a poor man’s version of Kreider” comments, the opposite may be true – “Kreider is a rich man’s Blais.”

After Georgiev made his biggest save up to this point in the game, a two-on-one denial on Wahlstrom; the Rangers got another power-play, and with 44 seconds remaining in the period, after a Pulock roughing call.

Unfortunately, with just .6 seconds remaining on the clock, Ryan Strome and Scott Mayfield had a nasty collision. Strome was shaken up and winced in agony. He wouldn’t return for the third period. Fortunately, it’s being reported that Strome was pretty much pulled from the game for precautionary reasons. After the game, Gallant said Strome shouldn’t miss any time.

After forty minutes, the Rangers still led 2-1.

Lindgren, who got a nice contract this off-season, had an off game on Saturday. Photo Credit: Kristen L.

After killing off the Rangers power-play, Noah Dobson clapped a shot from near the blue line and Mat Barzal deflected it past Georgiev. 2-2, in a good goal for the Islanders, but a somewhat deflating goal allowed by the Rangers.

However, with the Islanders looking juiced-up a bit after the intermission, Filip Chytil sniped a shot past Ilya Sorokin, to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead at the near five-minute mark of the period. It should be noted here, that Sorokin has played extremely well against the Rangers, that is, until tonight, as the Rangers eventually put five goals past the Islanders star netminder.

Kravtsov, who scored earlier, should’ve drawn two penalties in this game too, but for whatever reason, the refs ignored both a slash and a tackle on Kravtsov. Right after a Kravtsov no-call, Adam Fox was boxed for a fugazi interference call.

On the Islanders power-play, they won a face-off to the left of Georgiev and immediately after getting control of the puck, Lee scored again. 3-3. Once again, Trouba was on the ice, and as he was for all four Islander goals – but this goal was more on Lindgren than on anyone else.

Chytil had three big reasons to smile in this game. Photo Credit: NYR

After Gauthier drew another penalty with 10:56 to go in regulation, the Rangers power-play went to work, where once again, Sammy Blais smothered Sorokin like butter on a southern waffle. As Blais was screening Sorokin, Chytil fired a shot from the circle, and boom, 4-3 GOOD GUYS. At this point, this was two goals for Chytil, who prior to this game, struggled to get his name onto the score sheet.

With under ten minutes to go (and really, for the remainder of the game), this is where Georgiev really looked like he was holding in a shart, as he had all the confidence of someone with a belly full of White Castle running up a flight of stairs.

As Georgiev was doing his best to preserve the lead, Ross Johnston and Kevin Rooney got into it. This was another scrap where Trouba was looking for the hot dog vendor instead of getting involved himself.

Of note Part I: Rooney got busted up a bit here (bloody lip) and went to the locker room. Just like Strome, after the game, Gallant said Rooney was fine and this fracas won’t effect Rooney’s opening night status.

Of note Part II: This left the Rangers without two of their centers for the remainder of the game.

Of note Part III: Despite being down two centers, the Rangers knocked off the Islanders!

After Georgiev’s best save of the game, a breakaway save on Cizikias, where you groaned “oh no” as the Isles “Identity Line” centerman shot the puck; we had another battle of wills after a whistle, where this time, Morgan Barron was defending Alexis Lafreniere after Lafreniere was smashed by Kyle Palmieri.

During this particular scrap, Trouba did get involved a bit, but only after all of the officials crowded in, creating a “safe space” for Trouba to then get involved. (This was the akin of someone getting into a fight, only after his big and tall buddies were there to back him up.)

As the game hit the “two-minute warning”, Sorokin went to the bench, giving the Islanders a 6 x 5 attack. This is where Barzal scored the equalizer, where Trouba had the best seat in the house as depicted earlier on this blog.

And yes, I know I have treated Trouba like a Penn Station toilet during tonight’s manifesto, but what else can I say? Trouba has been horrible this preseason. You can’t ignore that once again, he was on the ice for every single goal allowed. Make a play. I will throw up if I hear another, “I wet my pants, I need more time to transition to playing in NYC” excuse out of him.

Can you believe that I haven’t even mentioned Adam Fox yet, the 2021 Norris Trophy winner? Who am I, EA Sports? (For those who don’t follow the world of video games, EA Sports gave Fox a low rating of 87 in “NHL ’22”.) Photo Credit: NYR

As the two teams remained tied 4-4 after sixty minutes of action, we went to the 3 vs 3 overtime. Gallant used Fox, Kravtsov and Chytil to start, where after a turnover, Georgiev made a big save on Brock Nelson to keep the Rangers alive. After the save and a shift change, Kakko got the puck and made his way to the net, where Kakko drew a tripping penalty from Barzal.

The Rangers four-man power-play unit consisted of Fox, Chytil, Lafreniere and Kakko. Somewhat similar to last season under former coach David Quinn, this first power-play unit refused to change and stayed on the ice during the entire duration of the power-play, as this quartet swarmed Sorokin and the Islanders. Unlike last season, not changing here eventually paid off.

As the power-play was expiring, Kakko, from the red line behind the net, found Chytil roving to the middle of the ice and Chytil buried another goal, his third – a hat trick, giving the Rangers the 5-4 overtime victory!

Here’s a look at all three Chytil goals:

For the Rangers, without their 1-2 scoring punch, to knock off a complete Islanders squad speaks volumes, even if this game result doesn’t matter. Photo Credit: NYR

That does it for the preseason, where the Rangers finish up 4-2 overall (including two overtime wins), for those who are counting.

Going into the regular season, I think the Rangers have a lot of things to feel good about. As previously mentioned, and as I will expand on either on Tuesday or Wednesday, when I release my complete 2021-22 NHL Season Preview blog – I 100% believe the Rangers will qualify for the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. And if they don’t, James Dolan might change up regimes again!  (I kid, I kid, or am I?)

I don’t want to go into repeat-mode here and say things I’ve previously said during this preseason, but I think Mika Zibanejad will rebound after a COVID-impacted 2021 season. Without distractions from fake news Russia, I think Panarin will once again challenge for the Hart Trophy.

While Panarin contends for the Hart Trophy, I think the Rangers have two other players who can qualify for year-end awards/trophies, in Adam Fox (Norris) and Igor Shestyorkin (Vezina). Obviously, this will be Igor’s biggest season yet, as for the first time in an 82-game season, Igor will have to earn the big money that he’s now receiving.

In addition, one could also make the case that Nils Lundkvist could contend for the Calder Trophy too.

If there’s one thing I’ve been saying all preseason that deserves to be reiterated, it’s this – these Rangers aren’t built to win a Presidents’ Trophy. They are built to win in the playoffs. With guys like Blais, Goodrow and Reaves on the roster, the Rangers won’t be pushed around.

I mean, just look at the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs (or really, any Stanley Cup Playoff tournament ever) and you’ll notice the same thing among all winners and contenders – size, toughness and a complete roster wins the Stanley Cup. The Rangers have that now. Plus, as we always see in the playoffs, there are always multiple upsets throughout the tournament, which is why I ask you one more time – “why not the Rangers?”

It’s highly likely that this team will be able to run four unique lines all season, which the Rangers haven’t really been able to do since the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. That’s huge for team-wide success.

With Kakko emerging during this preseason, I think another big x-factor here (even if he’s a big name already), is Alexis Lafreniere. If #13 can fulfill the lofty expectations already bestowed upon him, it will make things tougher on any team that plays the Rangers, especially with the Rangers featuring Mika on one line and Panarin on the other.

It should also be mentioned that during this preseason, Gallant never stacked a line featuring both Mika and Panarin. (I wouldn’t rule out Mika and Panarin on the same line, late into a game and with the Rangers behind a goal.)

I’m also not concerned, like others are, about Strome playing with Panarin and Kakko, because we all know about Strome’s chemistry with #10. Some fans may worry about Kreider on the first line and that’s understandable considering the times where he goes into “Casper Kreider” mode. However, if Kreider can continue his great work on the power-play, and if Lafreniere benefits greatly by playing with Mika – Kreider and his consistent near 30-goal seasons will just be gravy.

As you may have guessed, if there’s anything that I truly see as a weak link, it’s the Rangers defense. Fox and Lindgren have given us no reason to question them, but as mentioned all preseason, Trouba and Miller do. And while Nemeth has looked decent during this preseason, it’s tough to expect the world out of his partner in Nils Lundkvist, as Lundkvist embarks on his rookie season. Similar to Lafreniere and Kakko, there may be a learning curve as Lundkvist gets used to the NHL.

Another team concern is the back-up goaltender position, because while Georgiev has looked decent enough, he hasn’t made too many breathtaking saves yet. The 2019-2020 season hopefully won’t be his peak.

Nothing against David Quinn, but Gallant has the respect of his players and the experience – two factors that DQ didn’t exactly have. Even better, Gallant has a successful track record in his first year with a club. Photo Credit: NYR

Obviously, with a new coach in tow, Gallant changes the make-up of the Rangers. If there’s one word that has kept popping up with Gallant, it’s “accountability” and how Gallant treats every player on the roster, no matter their experience, the same.

Far too often, David Quinn, rightfully or not, was accused of coddling his younger players, where to be fair, was the reason why DQ was hired in the first place. (As said to the point of redundancy on this site, Gallant and DQ had/have two separate rosters and expectations, where DQ was tasked to build the team and Gallant is here to bring them to the Cup.)

You may have heard this before – the rebuild is over. General Manager Chris Drury, taking over where Jeff Gorton left off, is now tasked to get this team to the next level. While there is no way to grade Drury’s off-season until the end of this 2021-22 campaign, I’m on record – I think Drury did, dare I say it – a FABULOUS job.

While there will always be some fans crying about Pavel Buchnevich until the end of time (because they don’t understand the salary cap), Drury, who not only put a good roster together, also has financial wiggle-room come the NHL trade deadline. As I write these words, I don’t know who would get bumped and who will be available, but you’d have to think the Rangers will be players at the deadline, as they make their playoff push.

When speaking of the salary cap and the roster, one thing that can’t be overlooked is that the Rangers have a bunch of players all playing in contract years, where many will either become restricted or unrestricted free agents.

While Drury may have a mess on his hands this summer, as he tries to properly allot the salary cap dollars; Drury also has a bunch of players who will be financially motivated, with the decision of what to do with Mika Zibanejad being the biggest. In fact, until something happens with Mika, expect Mika’s contract to get a ton of headlines, especially during the trade deadline if the situation isn’t resolved by then.

In something that everyone should know and remember, the lines on opening night probably won’t be your lines at the end of the season. Heck, the lines and pairings could even change from game one to game two, especially with the team opening the season with a set of back-to-back games. That said, what I don’t think you’ll see, especially when compared to David Quinn, is Gallant changing the lines 2-3 minutes into a game, after one singular bad play or goal allowed.

Putting lines and pairings together, to quote former Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault, is a “pro-cess”. However, throughout the trial-and-error “pro-cess”, I think Gallant will give time to whatever he decides to do, before making any sort of drastic changes, barring injuries.

You may have heard – the Rangers open the 2021-22 season in Washington against Tom Wilson and the Capitals. Photo Credit: M$GN

I was talking to a Rangers fan named Tim W. the other day, where he suggested the idea of an interesting prop bet. While this prop bet isn’t available (at least not yet, at the time of this writing), what do you think the odds are on a Reaves (or someone else) fighting with Tom Wilson on Wednesday night?

While Gallant and the Rangers have said this is just one game, would it shock anyone if any Ranger goes after Tom Wilson, in order to make a statement not only on behalf of themselves, but to the entire league too? That said, do the Rangers want to run the risk of losing a player for an entire game or risk giving the Capitals a power-play too? As they say, we’ll see.

I’m excited for this season to start. While I thought the Rangers would make the playoffs last season (and to be fair, from a standings/points perspective, the Rangers were the best team in all of the NHL to not qualify for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs), I’m convinced they’ll make the playoffs this season. After missing the playoffs during the last four consecutive seasons (unless you count that 2020 bubble fiasco), it’s time for the Rangers to regain their status as perennial playoff contenders. More importantly, it’s time to win the damn Stanley Cup too.

Quick plug before rolling out here.

On Friday, 10/8, the “2 Guys 1 Cup” podcast returned, where co-hosts Shawn and Roc examined this current Rangers preseason. To listen to the show, click the link below:

If you haven’t already, subscribe to this blog for the next update:

Buy the book today! Now in hardcover! (I’ll change this closing graphic when the regular season starts.)

Finally, the preseason is complete!

Moving forward, I’ll have a 2021-22 NHL Season Preview up next. The Rangers also have to make a few cuts prior to Monday’s 5:00PM deadline, so maybe I’ll also return on Monday night, talking about who and who didn’t make it.

After that, game one of the season starts on Wednesday, followed by the home-opener on Thursday. Of note, I’ll have a full recap of Wednesday’s game on this site once it’s over. A review of the home-opener will be posted really late Thursday night or maybe on Friday morning, as I’m attending that game.

Until next time…

Stay FABULOUS my friends.

As always here, thanks for reading and…


Sean McCaffrey


@NYCTHEMIC on Tweeter

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4 thoughts on “Rangers Finish Preseason with a Thrilling Victory; Ace Isles Litmus Test, “Baby Blueshirts” Impress, Chytil’s Hat Trick, Kakko = NYR’s Preseason MVP; Sjoberg, “Trouba The Terrible” Strikes Again, Injuries, Rangers Season Preview & More

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