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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Returning tonight. Sweet.
With the news of Chris Kreider’s imminent return to the Rangers line-up (likely tonight), it’s fair to say the sooner the talented winger is back in the line-up the better the Rangers chances are to overcome the Penguins. The fact that a rookie – who has had a solid yet unspectacular first full season with the Rangers – is almost seen as a saviour for the offense can be seen as an indirect criticism of most if not all of the Rangers big name offensive players up front, most notably Rick Nash.
How Chris Kreider fares in this year’s playoffs and the start of next season will have a direct impact on the future of Rick Nash. Many Rangers fans have already begun to jump off the Nash bandwagon amid his distinct lack of playoff production. If Kreider could come back and become the consistent scorer everyone thinks he could be it could spell danger for Nash’s Rangers future.
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Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America
So far in the playoffs (a few hiccups aside) and after every additional game, Anton Stralman is getting more expensive for the New York Rangers to retain. As such, the team should already be considering moving on from the solid yet unspectacular blueliner.
If rumours are true that Stralman rejected a three year, $9 million dollar deal from the Rangers back in March, then he’s already auditioning for July’s free agency. Over the past few months Stralman’s value certainly won’t have lessened and Stralman’s agent will also know about the general lack of quality blueliners available this summer. It should certainly be a seller’s market (and another reason the Rangers need to handle Marc Staal’s contract situation as a matter of priority).
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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America
Note: Goal breakdown will be up this afternoon. Sorry about the delay.
The Rangers won in impressive style in Pittsburgh on Friday night. Impressive because they were hard on the puck, they were opportunistic but most importantly when they lost their lead, they didn’t panic and worked their way back in to a solid position. They handled – at least for game one – the surges that eventually came from Pittsburgh over the final two periods. The Rangers were around Fleury all night which resulted in the game winning goal but which also begs the question; why can’t the powerplay convert?
We’ve mentioned it before but Benoit Pouliot (surely the recipient of a shiny new deal from the Rangers this summer) goes hard to the net and he gets rewarded. The Rangers best line of Zuccarello – Brassard – Pouliot are consistently a creative force and something that is missing from the powerplay, their line is always moving, always busy and always looking for the puck. The fact is, game one of this series would have been won well before overtime had the Rangers managed to convert on the powerplay. The talent is there, the execution isn’t.
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As Rangers fans bask in the glory of a scrappy but successful series victory over the Flyers there’s not much time to look ahead to the Pens series. With that said, we thought we’d share a few thoughts on the Rangers so far.
Benoit Pouliot coming on strong
Pouliot has taken costly penalties and is anything but a complete player, but as the year has gone on Pouliot has developed into a core Ranger. As part of the Rangers’ best line for most of the season Pouliot has to be retained. His goal against the Flyers was a great example of why the Rangers need him. Pouliot drove to the net and was rewarded after a great pass from Zuccarello. It’s a simple concept but not enough Rangers get to the dangerous areas, Pouliot did and was rewarded. He should (and surely will be) rewarded with a new deal.
Stralman was immense in Game 7 against the Flyers. Games like that are why the Rangers should find a way to keep him, but those types of all action performances aren’t quite frequent enough to warrant the money Stralman will likely demand. When he’s on his game he can make a good first pass, he’s a good skater, he is willing to throw his body in front of pucks and is a pretty smart hockey player to boot. It’s a shame he can’t put all those aspects together consistently.
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