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Despite low scoring on Friday, Rangers are trending up

Photo by Avi Gerver, ©Madison Square Garden, L.P.

Photo by Avi Gerver, ©Madison Square Garden, L.P.

The Rangers took three of four points from the apparently almighty Penguins this week. Both games, off the back of roster re-shaping trade deadline deals, showed us a lot about how the Rangers should look for the remainder of the season.

The 2-1 shootout defeat Friday night in Pittsburgh might see some fans be disheartened about a club that scored just one goal (again), but what is a somewhat valid concern is outweighed by several positives. Let’s take a look at why the Rangers still have a chance this season;

The new guys: the new additions – led by Ryane Clowe – have brought depth, skill, but above all have made the Rangers harder to play against. Perhaps most importantly where players such as Marian Gaborik weren’t entirely trusted by Tortorella anymore, you saw the likes of Derick Brassard on the ice toward the end of the game as the Rangers chased hard. Brassard came close from a bad angle that needed a review. The fact Tortorella is rolling lines more evenly – evidence of the additional depth –suggests the Rangers have depth to make a push.

The defense: Barring one miscue on the Pens blueline Michael Del Zotto played a tough game, stood tall physically, and tried to make a difference. Another up and down campaign, Del Zotto isn’t shying away from at least trying to be a go-to-guy. Ryan McDonagh was pinching at the right times and making intelligent plays, and the defense looks deeper with the addition of John Moore. If the Rangers can get Marc Staal back, all of a sudden the defense goes from looking shallow to being pretty deep and mobile.

Derek Stepan: When your team is desperate for a goal in the dying minutes you need players to step up. Stepan was struggling in the faceoff circle most of the evening but critically got the puck to Rick Nash for the game tying goal. Its that kind of clutch play that has seen Stepan emerge as the Rangers best center this year, and it’s his blossoming chemistry with Rick Nash that suggest the Rangers have a game changing top line. This doesn’t even include puck possession monster Carl Hagelin.

Self belief: For the first time in a while, the Rangers have played with confidence, weren’t fazed by giving up the first goal, and looked to dominate the puck more than they have all year. Whether it has been triggered by the new arrivals or not, the Rangers look more like the team they were last year and were supposed to be this season. If the Rangers can maintain a level of confidence and self belief through the remainder of the season, they can still achieve what they intended to from the start.

Special Teams: It’s not rocket science; in today’s NHL a team will only have prolonged success if at least one – but preferably both – of the special teams units are performing well.  Against the Jets, the penalty kill stopped all five chances and Ryan Callahan grabbed a shorthanded goal. In the 6-1 victory over the Penguins, the powerplay stepped up and scored on three of four chances and the penalty kill kept the Penguins out on both their opportunities. While the Rangers powerplay didn’t convert on Friday, it moved the puck well. It created chances and the Rangers scored directly after a powerplay later in the game. In short, the Rangers special teams have stepped up in recent games coinciding with two victories and 3 of 4 points against a strong Penguins club.

The Rangers are still in a scrap for a playoff spot and that’s a result of their season long inconsistency but the past week has shown there are plenty of reasons for optimism for the Rangers.

9 Responses to “Despite low scoring on Friday, Rangers are trending up”

  1. Starter says:

    I was really impressed with Brassard and Zuccs last night. They have added creativity and it’s opening up space during even strength and on the Powerplay. If Zuccs continues to progress, I wouldn’t be against offering him a 2-3 deal around 2 million or so. This would give Fast, Kreider and Lindberg some time to play with the Whale next year. Having Clowe around also puts a smile on my face. Big, tough and smart. I hope his extension falls round 3 million per on a 5 year deal(to bring the cap hit down). Hurry up Staal and get healthy!

  2. Walt says:

    Great points on all accounts! It’s amazing how, with one addition, Clowe, there seems to be soooo much more room to roam on the ice, and that the rest of the team now stands taller, and is willing to muck it up more!

    I love the way Step, along with Nash, are becoming the go to guys, and that Cally, the way he just gets in the middle of things, outstanding. I don’t know how long they can sustain the upward trend in the scoring department, but it’s clear as day, this team is playing with a lot more swagger, and determination!!!

  3. AD says:

    In: Clowe, Brassard, Zucarello, Moore, Asham (from injury)
    Out: Gaborik, Miller, Kreider (both to AHL)

    Based on performance, that is an upgrade offensively, defensively, and in physicality.

    If/when Staal & Dorsett get into the lineup for Eminger and Powe, respectively, the club will be that much better defensively and physically.

    In short, this is shaping up to be a stronger team than last year. We have to give Sather credit for the moves made.

    Now, the key question is can the club hit stride in time to make a deep run for the playoffs.

    I think it can.

  4. Rob says:

    It’s all about chemistry and balance through the lineup eh? It’s like the old hockey game on super nintendo where you had only 3 types of players…the super skinny fast guy, the middle of the road guy, and the heavy set guy. In our top two lines before the deadline trades, we had 5 out of 6 guys as the skinny guys and just Cally being the mid set guy and he’s only 5.9’…Now with the additions it’s like all the lines have pretty much all three types of players throughout 3-4 lines. Bringing much more balance in the lineup lol.

    • TxRanger says:

      cally is 5-11

      • The Suit says:

        listed at 5-11, but North American GM’s usually over list smaller players.

        • TxRanger says:

          whenever he stands next to hank, they look pretty much the same height to me, hank’s listed at 6-1. not a big deal, but 5-9 and 5-11 is a notable difference.

          • The Suit says:

            My guess would be that Sather gave them both an inch. Hank looks the same height on the ice because he’s crouching and goalie skates are a bit closer to the ice.