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Kaapo Kakko. #24. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Kaapo Kakko Scores First Career Goal in 4-1 Loss on Garden Ice

Even though the New York Rangers lost at home Saturday 4-1 to the red-hot Edmonton Oilers, the future looks bright for the Blueshirts. That is largely thanks to No.2 overall-pick Kaapo Kakko, who scored his first goal in the National Hockey League (NHL) against the Oilers.

The Rangers only goal on Saturday was a nice play orchestrated by the 26-year-old Ryan Strome and the 18-year-old Kakko.

On the atmosphere inside Madison Square Garden after the rookie scored, Strome said “It was a cool goal, obviously a great move and he’s going to have a good career, so fun to be a part of it.”

Ranger’s offense may not have done much on Saturday against the Oilers—but look like they still will be better than the Capitals, Blue Jackets, Devils and Flyers this season. Artemi Panarin has great instincts, that finding spots to take deadly one-timers and moving the puck around the offensive zone. With Panarin scoring and passing pucks to Zibanejad and Kakko, the latter should score plenty on the power play.

Now moving onto the goaltending situation. I have a big question that I want to ask head coach David Quinn. First and foremost, will the Rangers have great goaltending? Can Lundqvist play well for the entire season, or should he cede the starting role to Alexandar Georgiev early on so the 23-year-old can settle in as the number-one goalie for the New York Rangers? Will Igor Shesterkin join the NHL team later in the season? The goalie trifecta is going to be an ongoing drama this season, because I think Shesterkin and Georgiev are ready to play in the NHL—it’s just a question of when they will start to play consistently. For Georgiev that could come as soon as Christmas, Shesterkin could replace Georgiev, whose numbers may suffer because of the poor defense in front of him.

The adage that offense wins games and defense wins championships rings true for the Rangers three games early on this season. In their home opener against Winnipeg, the broadway blueshirts were able to win thanks to two four-point games from Mika Zibanejad and solid efforts from Jacob Trouba. Against Ottawa, they played solid defense and won easily. On Saturday against the Oilers, the Ranger defense collapsed in the third period.  Some players are learning on defense, like rookie Libor Hajek and some players are not showing improvement, like the 26-year-old Brady Skjei. Will players like Skjei and DeAngelo will be under pressure to mature into leaders on the ice for this young team.

Anthony DeAngelo and Marc Staal played Saturday’s game against the Oilers’ top line. Staal and DeAngelo should not be used as the top line again, because they were both minuses against an Oilers team that is one of two undefeated teams left in the NHL. Still, DeAngelo was a minus-three and had no points, and no hits or blocked shots. Quinn should lower his 19 minutes of ice time to 17.

 The Rangers have a mysterious situation with Brady Skjei. After the first game of the year, Skjei was taken off the top line with Trouba. Since then, Skjei has been playing with different partners. On Saturday, Skjei was paired with 21-year-old Adam Fox. They did not play badly together. The problem is, neither of them plays physically and against the Devils and the Capitals, who the Rangers will play Thursday and Friday, Brady Skjei and Libor Hajek will certainly need to be paired with solid defensemen. These two games are two games Rangers fans desperately want to win. The Rangers should have figured out the right line combinations before these two crucial divisional matchups.

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