If a trade was judged purely on previous production there would have been a lot more complaints the day the Rangers traded away Michael Del Zotto for Kevin Klein. Luckily, the Ranger fan base is (on the whole) more informed than that.
Looking back at Glen Sather’s acquisition of Kevin Klein, it would be easy to assume Sather gave up on Del Zotto (which was true to an extent) but a more appropriate way of looking at it would be how Sather was able to BETTER balance his defense when he brought Klein on board.
While Klein’s 6 points, +4 rating and 36 hits are not jaw dropping numbers the good ol’ fashioned eye test helps to review his game. Klein has generally impressed with his decision making and ability to make a solid defensive play consistently. His positioning has been consistently good and his ability under pressure has been strong. Klein has no problem taking a hit to make a play and has been a solid addition for the Rangers. No longer do Ranger fans hold their collective breath like they did when Del Zotto wandered around his own zone.
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The signs were there at the end of the regular season as Martin St. Louis began to look like the player the Rangers hoped they had acquired. It continued on Thursday night. St. Louis, while not registering a shot, was engaged, around the puck and around the net all night long and came up with two huge assists as the Rangers put down the Flyers 4-1.
Brad Richards may have played his best ever game for the Rangers Thursday night. The veteran center had a huge powerplay goal, two crucial assists, playing an energetic game while being physically and defensively committed all night long. He was there when it mattered.
Then there’s Rick Nash. Nash looked to test Ray Emery at every opportunity (given he was shaky to begin, it was the right thing to do) and as the game developed Nash looked to go to the net with more frequency and could have scored as he cut to the net from the left. Nash also got an assist, as reward for his consistent performance on the night. If Nash drives to the net with more regularity the Rangers will be that much more dangerous.
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RMcD = MVP? Photo Credit: LoHud
Today is the day a rivalry gets renewed. The Rangers entertain the Flyers tonight in a much anticipated series. Let’s throw a few musings up.
The series against the Flyers represents a no-win situation for the Rangers. In all honesty, there is not a huge amount separating the two teams but yet everyone expects the Rangers to win. The Flyers have a ton of talent but are very flawed. That said, it wouldn’t be the greatest of shocks if they beat the Rangers but it would cause serious fall-out in New York.
Is there a single Ranger forward you wouldn’t swap for Claude Giroux?
Beyond the obvious (Hank, McD, Nash), who holds they key to the second round for the Rangers? Mats Zuccarello. He has been the Rangers best powerplay forward all year and you have to assume the Flyers will take more penalties than the Rangers. If the Rangers can stay out of the box and Zuccarello can work some PP magic that may be the decisive factor.
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Not a single team currently ranked lower than the Rangers in face-off percentage this year will be in the playoffs. The last four Stanley Cup Champions (Chicago (twice), LA and Boston) rank 5th, 3rd and 8th respectively in face-off success. All three of the Rangers centers relied on for their offense – Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan and Brad Richards (so, not Dom Moore and Brian Boyle) – have less than a 50% success rate, with Stepan winning a paltry 45.2% of his face offs. Can you see the point we’re trying to make?
When Brad Richards leaves the Rangers this summer, the team must ensure his replacement(s) count face-off ability among their skill sets. Face-off weakness is also one why reason why Derick Brassard being retained isn’t a guarantee. Aside from resolving Marc Staal’s contract situation this summer, perhaps the biggest focus for the Rangers needs to be acquiring proven face-off centermen.
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Is Sather learning?
Can old dogs learn new tricks? Everyone will agree that Glen Sather’s approach to the Lundqvist, Girardi and especially Callahan contract situations over the last year adversely impacted the Rangers this season. It almost certainly cost the Rangers their captain (even if Callahan’s demands were excessive).
News of Pouliot and the Rangers having a ‘mutual interest’ in extending the talented winger’s stay in New York may be premature to draw any conclusions from, but alternatively it may be a sign that the Rangers – Sather in particular – may be learning from the trials and tribulations of the past twelve months.
The Rangers have a few major contract situations creeping up on them that could really impact the competitiveness of their roster, long term. The major contract situation is of course Marc Staal’s, who is close to being back to his best and who gives the Rangers an elite defenseman on their second pair – a rare luxury in a cap driven league. With Staal’s situation likely to be a complicated one, getting the contract situations of the likes of Pouliot, Mats Zuccarello and other core roster players resolved early will allow the Rangers to know exactly what they can or can’t afford with regard to Staal.
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Long term contention? Photo: Brad Penner, USA Today
The Rangers entertain the hapless Sabres tonight. A team with hopes of a deep playoff run should be winning tonight with ease so with that jinx behind us, let’s throw up a few Ranger based thoughts.
Let’s briefly address the ‘win now’ theory. Henrik Lundqvist is 32 and has a shiny new seven year deal. He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and with several examples of goalies playing to an elite level deep into their 30’s, there’s no reason to think Lundqvist can’t do the same.
The defense has a strong under-contract core (Staal, Girardi, McDonagh and Klein) of which none are the wrong side of thirty. The forward corps (Nash and St Louis not considered) could feature six players in the top nine who have contributed to the Rangers this year (as presently constructed) that are all 26 or under and of which none have maxed out their potential – think Kreider, Hagelin, Stepan, Zuccarello, Brassard and JT Miller.
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Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images
While everyone who watches the Rangers with any regularity would agree that the Rangers need to address the center position in the near future, the Rangers have got a lot more talent on the wing than many will lead you to believe. It starts but certainly doesn’t end with the current roster.
With Rick Nash and Martin St Louis leading the club from the wing, there is plenty of veteran elite ability for next year. Greater contributions (and consistency) will be expected from Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider. Both young wingers offer physical tools (speed and/or size) and the ability to score in bunches but Kreider at least, will be expected to take the next step after his promising rookie campaign this year. Hagelin is almost the perfect depth winger given his reliability in his own zone, ability to play on any line and an ability score close to 20 goals at the NHL level.
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Little man get paid big?
Yes, I know Dave gave you a Musings this morning. Whatever. You’re being spoiled today with two. As the Rangers close in on a playoff spot, form, health and special teams become so incredibly important at this time of the year. With the Avalanche on tap this evening, let’s have a muse for the second time today.
It’s nice to see the Captain (the real captain) holds no apparent bitterness toward the Rangers following his coaching snub last summer. Mark Messier says the Rangers have a chance at the Cup and, if they avoid the Bruins, there’s no reason to think they can’t go far if health and form holds up.
That said, the Rangers cannot go far in the post season without a better powerplay and consistency from Nash, St Louis, Richards – in that order. The defense will keep this team in games, Henrik Lundqvist will steal games but the offense needs to spot the King a lead or two. Stating the obvious?
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Kreider is only of several draftees from the US system (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
When you look at the current Rangers roster, there are plenty of examples how the Rangers have successfully looked to the American hockey program and how the franchise has a preference for American trained players. Whether it be the drafting of Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller or Carl Hagelin, the free agent signing of Cam Talbot or the now infamous acquisition of Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers have had significant success with their recent focus on US trained players.
It goes beyond the current roster. The Rangers system currently boasts several players who have either come through the US development program or the NCAA system. Whether it be Conor Allen, Ryan Bourque or Danny Kristo already at the pro level, or prospects such as ‘Boo’ Nieves, Steve Fogarty and Brady Skjei still in college, the Rangers have continued to look toward the US system for success.
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Throughout the Rangers recent stretch of form (the Calgary game aside) a key aspect to the Rangers’ success has been the consistent performances from the role players. Whether it is Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett or veteran Dom Moore, the Rangers have gotten great performances from their lesser lights.
Dom Moore in particular has been a quality player most nights. He has consistently displayed a high hockey IQ, he’s got defensive prowess, and for a team that struggles to score consistently, his 18 point season is no bad thing from your 4th line center.
Retaining Moore in the summer is a no-brainer. Given the likelihood of significant change at the center position retaining Moore gives the team some continuity at the position. With Moore, they’ll retain a player that is part of a strong penalty killing unit who is also both cheap and unlikely to upset the apple cart in the event of being handed a fringe position on the roster.
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