Three Key Rangers that need to be better in game two

The Rangers needs more from Zuccarello, starting tonight.

The Rangers needs more from Zuccarello, starting tonight.

The Rangers enter tonight’s crucial game two trailing the Kings after one and given the Rangers relative poor home form it’s essential they get even in the series tonight. The Rangers could really do with winning tonight’s game two as the pressure would be back on the Kings heading to New York. To do so, several Rangers are going to have to improve on their recent performances. Let’s take a look at three Rangers who could have a huge influence on tonight’s game with improved performances.

Mats Zuccarello

Following a breakout year leading the Rangers offensively and being part of the club’s most consistent line all year long, things have gone stale for the little Norwegian. With no points in his last six playoff games Zuccarello is the definition of cold. For a team with no obvious, go-to offensive producer and for a team reliant on balanced scoring Zuccarello can’t remain so ineffective in game two.

Read more »

How far can Carl Hagelin take his game?

Photo: Chris O'Meara/AP

Speed Kills. It can also score goals. Photo: Chris O’Meara/AP

If Carl Hagelin can develop some consistency in his offensive game and improve his decision making, he could be an elite talent. Yes, the Rangers cruelly lost the first game in the Finals against the Los Angeles Kings, but there were positives to be seen and one of them was and continues to be the growth of Carl Hagelin.

Hagelin’s speed terrifies people. It was the focal point of the first portion of Game One in LA, and the Rangers should really focus their offensive game plan around Hagelin and Chris Kreider’s speed. When those two players arrive in the offensive zone at full speed, it’s pretty daunting for opposition defenses.

Read more »

Plenty of motivation to be found throughout the Rangers

Photo: Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo: Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

If the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup wasn’t motivation enough (it is), several Rangers have additional motivation to step up and perform against the Los Angeles Kings starting Wednesday night.

Mats Zuccarello, Benoit Pouliot and Derick Brassard have been the Rangers most consistent forward line all season, and all three go into the Cup Final looking to earn extended stays with the Rangers. Zuccarello in particular can be considered a foregone conclusion. For the little Norwegian, it’s now about how big can he make his next deal and that is a strong motivator.

Brassard and Pouliot’s talent and relative success should make them both Rangers beyond this summer, but a strong Finals series would also give them a strong position to negotiate from. Worst case scenario, they’re entering hockey’s biggest shop window. Pouliot in particular would like to earn a multi-year deal from someone.

Read more »

Rangers need someone to emerge from impressive team depth

Does Kreider have the overall game to be the Rangers go-to guy on offense? (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Does Kreider have the overall game to be the Rangers go-to guy on offense? (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Rangers are on the cusp of the Stanley Cup for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is their team depth. Eight players currently have ten or more points in this years playoffs, while nine forwards currently average over fourteen minutes per game. However, among this depth is also a lingering problem; no player has truly emerged as the go-to guy on offense.

Martin St Louis has recently shown a consistency that the entire league has been accustomed to seeing from him for a decade, and when you factor in his tragic circumstances, his performance has been admirable. Meanwhile Chris Kreider has produced in bursts and is the only Ranger that is producing at a point per game rate (nine in ten, to date) but Kreider has been defensively erratic and has produced in bunches. Can he be relied upon to be THE difference maker?

Read more »

Derick Brassard a crucial cog in the Rangers playoff machine

Derick Brassard, clutch playoff performer and crucial tonight.

Derick Brassard, clutch playoff performer and crucial tonight.

Whether it was with the Columbus Blue Jackets or the New York Rangers, Derick Brassard has often left the impression that the best is yet to come. One thing Brassard has always done however, is respond positively to criticism or droughts, and has developed an encouraging tendency to turn up in the big games. It all bodes well then for the rest of the playoffs, but also with regard to his future as a Ranger.

Brassard is arguably one of the most naturally gifted players on a Rangers team that has a handful of All Star calibre players and potential Hall of Fame candidates. It is perhaps Brassard’s presence – and playmaking ability – that makes the departure of Brad Richards in the summer so likely. Also, it is Brassard that makes recruiting an eventual Richards replacement an option rather than a necessity.

Read more »

How Rick Nash can become a Ranger legend

Win a Cup, be a Legend. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Win a Cup, be a Legend. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It’s funny how some things turn out. Rick Nash has often been derided for his play in the postseason as a Ranger, and he certainly deserves his fair share of criticism for his lack of production. All of a sudden however, Nash has a modest two-game goal scoring streak to back up his excellent work off the puck and his play on the penalty kill. The Rangers also find themselves within two games of the Stanley Cup Finals with two elite wingers (including Martin St. Louis) slowly heating up. Things could be worse in Ranger town.

Much like Marian Gaborik once was, Nash has been accused of letting his teams down when it mattered most (the postseason). His lack of goals has often overshadowed the fact that Nash has been a solid contributor in so many areas of the game this year for a Rangers team that has spread the wealth offensively. The Rangers are where they are because they can ice four lines that can hurt the opposition. Luckily, Nash hasn’t needed to be brilliant offensively.

Read more »

The Musings: Just how good is the Rangers defense?

Dom Moore: Hugely deserving of a new deal this summer (Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI)

Dom Moore: Hugely deserving of a new deal this summer (Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI)

The Rangers are within two wins of the fan base going crazy with excitement. With the danger of looking too far ahead, let’s keep it sane and throw up a musings a day early shall we?

So much in sport depends on timing. Success is so often about peaking at the right time. In Henrik Lundqvist the Rangers have the best goalie in the world playing at the very top of his game. A (the?) leading Conn Smythe candidate, the Rangers have a huge advantage when he’s on his game. Right now it’s on fluke deflections that seem to be his undoing.

We’ve discussed it before, but the way he’s elevated his game (even further) in recent weeks it needs saying again; the Rangers have to keep Dominic Moore beyond this season, don’t they? Moore has beyond a strong penalty killer, a great defensive presence and has chipped in with leadership, some offense and filled in admirably for Derick Brassard. He’s a keeper.

Prediction: Ryan McDonagh will win a Norris trophy within the next four years. Not a wild prediction.

Read more »

Henrik Lundqvist – Swedish for Clutch

Photo: Willens/AP

Photo: Willens/AP

His record in Game Seven’s is borderline outrageous: 5-1 in game sevens, 1.00 GAA, .965%. Numbers that only get better when looking at the last four Game Sevens. He’s 10-2 when facing elimination. All eye popping numbers and the list goes on and on. Imagine if he had received better offensive support in recent years?

When you remove Lundqvist’s difficult start to the season, you can begin to make a legitimate argument that not only is Lundqvist the best goaltender in hockey but he’s the most clutch performer in the entire sport. Name another goaltender that has received as little offensive support as Lundqvist and has done more with it than the former Vezina winner? Lundqvist always steps up in big games and that’s all you can ask from your best player.

Read more »

Lundqvist, Girardi and McDonagh the key to Rangers hopes

Critically important. Ryan McDonagh. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Critically important. Ryan McDonagh. (Elsa/Getty Images)

It’s a pretty obvious statement to make but the Rangers’ top defensive pair of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi are critical to the Rangers hopes of progressing to the Conference finals and beyond. Dan Girardi and, particularly Ryan McDonagh, have been inconsistent in this series but a dominant performance from both – in addition to the assumed performance from Henrik Lundqvist – would go a long way in helping the Rangers clinch in Pittsburgh tonight.

The Rangers live and die by their defensive core. McDonagh was a plus one and logged over 26 minutes in the emotional game six victory Sunday and had a goal and assist and almost 27 minutes of ice time in game five. The result? Two huge victories and another game seven for the Rangers to look forward to.

The Rangers are a much tougher proposition when their top pair are on their games and following an indifferent start to the playoffs, McDonagh’s form is trending in the right direction. It has to continue tonight if the Rangers want success. This team can invest in as many offensive players as it wants but their success will always begin and end with players #30, #5 and #27.

Read more »

Has Derick Brassard done enough to return next season?

Brassard needs to be more consistent if he's to be a long term Ranger Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Brassard needs to be more consistent if he’s to be a long term Ranger Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Derick Brassard has a ton of ability and has flashed it countless times as a Ranger. Along with Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot he was part of the Rangers’ most consistent line all season, however was Brassard individually consistent enough to warrant being brought back next year?

Brassard came in from Columbus last year and was an impact player for the Rangers. Brassard was one of the few Rangers who distinguished themselves in the playoffs last season, but this year has been different as Brassard has been underwhelming in the playoffs following a streaky regular season.

Two big questions surround Brassard’s future in New York. How much of his (limited) success was a result of Mats Zuccarello’s breakout year and how much will Brassard demand to stay with the Rangers? Both questions aren’t easy to answer. The chemistry that Brassard showed with Zuccarello and Pouliot isn’t easy to measure or replicate. Secondly, given the weak free agent class this summer Brassard could make more money on the open market, if he gets there. Brassard was the fourth highest paid Ranger forward this year as he made $3.2m in salary during 2013-14.

Read more »