Five things that could derail the 2013 season

The lack of depth on defense could be an issue

The lack of depth on defense could be an issue

Heading into this season, the Rangers are one of the favorites to not only take the division and conference crowns, but to possibly bring the Stanley Cup back to New York. Playing in such a condensed season, the Rangers are not only going to have to be good, they are going to have to be lucky as well. There are a multitude of things that could easily derail this powerhouse.

Injuries
You could say this about the other 29 teams in the league, too, but there’s no denying that a significant injury to Henrik Lundqvist (knock on wood) or several other crucial Blueshirts could ruin the season in a hurry. Considering not everyone is in peak shape, it’s certainly possible that we could see a few major injuries in the first weeks of the season that change the landscape of the playoff race.

Lack of depth on D
The Rangers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year mainly riding four defensemen, but the group behind them including Anton Stralman, Stu Bickel, Steve Eminger and Matt Gilroy, leaves a lot to be desired. Coach John Tortorella was unwilling to trust any of them in key situations last season, but incredible individual efforts by the top four blueliners masked the issue. This problem might not rear its head until months down the line, but New York would be wise to add a capable blueliner in season; going into the playoffs with only four reliable defensemen again would be a major mistake.

The first month
The inter-conference schedule will make for incredibly tight playoff races and the Blueshirts will face an extremely tough test right out of the gate with two games each against the Bruins, Penguins and Flyers in January. Those teams are expected to battle with New York for the conference’s top seed; a slow start by the Rangers could quickly hurt the team’s chances at achieving home ice advantage. Luckily, four of those six games will be at Madison Square Garden.

Shootouts/overtime
As we’ve noted, the playoff races figure to be extremely tight in the lockout-shortened season. The extra points attainable in shootouts and overtime could be the difference between making the playoffs and sitting at home; winning the conference and hitting the road in Round One. The Rangers had thrived in the shootout until last season, but it would be helpful for the Blueshirts to improve on their 4-5-shootout record of a year ago. Of course, winning before the game ever reaches the shootout would be preferred, as that tiebreaker could determine playoff seeding.

Conditioning
The “Black & Blueshirts” style of play we all fell in love with last season may not be as conducive to success in 2013. Though several Rangers played in Europe and elsewhere during the lockout, it’s unlikely that many of them are in the top physical condition Tortorella usually demands entering a season. The upgraded offense is expected to lessen the need for the incredibly taxing style of play the Rangers employed last season to an extent, but that style is still important to the team’s identity and path to success. The condensed schedule will make it tricky, but the Rangers will once again need to be one of the league’s best-conditioned teams.

16 Responses to “Five things that could derail the 2013 season”

  1. Walt says:

    Agree with you about 90% of this post, but remember last season, Marc was down for a long stretch, and other d-men were hurt. Stu Bickel was given a shot and he worked out. We went out and got Jeff Wo, Antone, and Emminger, and the team went thru one of their best seasons ever.

    I agree, there is never enough good d-men on a team, but looking at the rest of the east, no one comes close to our defense as a whole!!!!

    Thank goodness for Dan, McD, Marc, and the supporting cast.

    • Chris says:

      I have to say I don’t think the defense is a concern, too much. Yes if Dan G, McD or Staal have a serious injury then it’s a huge issue but we’ve 5 solid defenseman IMO and that’s more than most of the league can say.

      Injuries cacn rear their head at any time to any team so we do need luck as you say Kevin, but injuries aside I’m confident in the unit.

      I don’t expect Bickel/Stralman/Eminger to see much ice time but I’d like to see the top four get more evenly spread TOI. Not many 30+ min games for Girardi please!

      • Mike K says:

        Additionally, one of the reasons the top defensemen played so much is because of how tight the games were. That didn’t give Torts the ability to rest people, with a bunch of 2-1, 3-2 games. If the offense is improved, maybe some 3-1, 4-1 games will allow him to use the bottom pair of defensement more often.

  2. Hatrick Swayze says:

    People need to stop talking about Stralman as a liability. The guy earned his spot as a 5th defenseman last year, and looked great along side Staal. In the playoffs, he contributed offensively with 2 goals (I think) in the Ottawa series.

    Unlike Bickel, he was not sheltered with <10 minutes of playing time a night in the post season. I would argue that defensively, he is on par with Del Zotto, who often times gets caught out of position due to his overly exaggerated style of playing the body in the D zone.

    Overall, our concern should be to find a 6th D- be it Bickel or Gilroy developing or finding a body via trade. Our 5th slot is in fine standing with Stralman fitting into the D corp. nicely.

  3. Gary says:

    If I remember correctly Steve eminger had improved tremendously and was playing a very solid game when he went down with his injury, hopefully he can get his game back. There is going to be a lot of healthy competition for defensive positions, as you all know playing time is earnd under torts

  4. Steve says:

    I’m worried about the start of the season. Yes, as Rangers fan I’m confident and more excited than ever but this is going to be a tough sprint to the playoffs. The conditioning definitely worries me.

  5. rickyrants13 says:

    Most of what you said EVERY TEAM is going to face so I will throw most of it out. As for the shootouts. We now have Kreider and Nash in the mix so we should fare much better there. And Nash now brings a super star to this team The likes we havent seen since Jagr and before that Messier.

    • Spozo says:

      You could argue that Gaborik and his three 40+ goal seasons in the last five years is better than Nash. Either way it should be exciting to see them side by side this year.

      • rickyrants13 says:

        Not really and you are versed well enough to know that if you put a beast like Nash on a team that half as good as what Gabs has played for His numbers would be better then Gabs And we will get to see that this year.

        Also Nash brings something to the ice night in and night out That Gaborik doesnt even come cose too. And that a player who CAN do it all on his own. And now if he plays with other good players its all a bonus. We are all gonna see that Nash was only half the player he could be

        • Spozo says:

          I still disagree. Gaborik didn’t have anyone to play with while in Minnesota and he didn’t have Richards as his center in his first year with the Rangers. I consider Nash and Richards to be very similar in that they were very high draft picks that we’re the face of their budding franchises which had little positive besides themselves. And just by looking at numbers I think Gaborik has been the better player so far throughout his career. I will put out there that Gaborik is a couple years older than Nash so a complete comparison is not possible right now. Either way it will be fun to watch both players this year. Cheers to a great season ahead of us!

  6. Steve says:

    Completely Off topic but what are 5 good bars in the city to watch Ranger games. I’ve been to flying puck during the playoffs but I’m looking for a few ‘go-to’ spots to watch games this season.

    Thanks!

    • Dave says:

      Flying Puck, Harringtons, Hudson Station are the three that come to mind. Stout isn’t bad either.

  7. ranger17 says:

    Torts need to play the first 3 lines alot more evenly this year and get the 4th line minutes also . Need to be able to go all out in the playoffs

  8. ranger17 says:

    think the key is giving all the lines some time

  9. JC says:

    I disagree that the start of the season matters. The Devils, who won the Cup in the lockout shortened 1994-95 season started 0-3-1, and 10-12-5. A bad start doesn’t necessarily doom the season.