Last season, the Rangers deployed Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello on their third line and Derek Dorsett, Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle on the fourth for much of the season. Needless to say, depth up front was a team strength.
Thanks to the cap crunch and some head-scratching offseason moves, the bottom-six just wasn’t quite the same this year. The team spent much of the season attempting to identify a third-line scoring winger and failed to support Dominic Moore on the checking unit. But though the sum of its parts wasn’t good enough, many members of the bottom-six did have terrific seasons.
What more could you ask for from the prized former Blackhawks first-round pick after he chose to join the Rangers last summer? Hayes really turned it on in the second-half, when it seemed like he improved every single game. Hayes has an impressive combination of size, hands and wheels, and the sky appears to be the limit for the 23-year-old. Hayes was a little quieter in the playoffs, but it’s hard to fault him for that.
Grade: A Read More→
It’s only a matter of time until the Rangers deal Cam Talbot, and the return looks like it’s going to be a slam dunk. Yesterday TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that the Blueshirts have already turned down two second-round picks for Talbot, indicating the team believes it can fetch even more for the 27-year-old netminder.
The Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks are rumored to be the three teams most interested in Talbot, with the Oilers believed to be the frontrunner to acquire his services. There’s some debate over whether Edmonton has offered its first-round pick, No. 16 overall, but it’s a fair assumption that the Oilers have at least dangled No. 33 and probably a prospect. There’s also been considerable speculation that Edmonton would consider parting with disappointing 2012 top pick Nail Yakupov given the team’s glut of young forwards. Read More→
So how did the other former Blueshirts do this year? Let’s take a look:
One Team’s Trash Is Another Team’s Treasure
Jaromir Jagr – 77 gp, 17 g, 30 a, 11 ppp, 17:34 ATOI
He just won’t quit! The 43-year-old was having a relatively quiet season in New Jersey before exploding for almost a point per game with Florida after coming over at the trade deadline. Jagr re-signed with the Panthers immediately following the season because Florida was so thrilled with Jagr’s positive influence on the Panthers’ young stars.
Ryan Callahan – 77 gp, 24 g, 30 a, 16 ppp, 17:44 ATOI
His limited playoff productivity notwithstanding, Callahan has earned endless praise from Lightning coach Jon Cooper for his trademark work ethic and leadership. Callahan did most of his scoring flanking Steven Stamkos this season, but found himself in more of a checking role during the playoffs. Tampa Bay has plenty of cheap talent, but you wonder if the Lightning is going to be thrilled to pay Callahan $5.8 million a year moving forward. Read More→
Eklund had a decent idea.
No, the blog hasn’t been hacked – I meant to write that. As whispers continue to grow that the Rangers are indeed seriously considering trading Rick Nash, the frequently mocked rumormonger “reported” that a potential destination for New York’s top forward could be the Detroit Red Wings for a package including Gustav Nyquist and draft picks.
Trading away a Hart Trophy contender is still likely a last resort for a club that has been just a few wins from the Stanley Cup in each of the last two seasons, but it’s also a move that the organization has to at least consider given the salary cap crunch. The Blueshirts barely have enough cash to keep their core together, let alone improve the roster with additions. And after getting so close to the top of the mountain in three of the last four seasons, there will again be the temptation to shake things up to avoid plateauing.
Which brings us to the aforementioned proposal. There are no sources cited nor any credible publications that have made the Nash/Detroit connection, so this is simply spit balling. That said – if momentum builds within the front office for a Nash deal, then that hypothetical trade makes a lot of sense for both sides. Read More→
If the Rangers had won five more games, this post would never have been written.
But now that they have fallen short of the ultimate prize again, let’s take a look at General Manager of the Year finalist Glen Sather’s scorecard over the last 15 months. And before I go any further, know that I’ve been effusive in my praise of Sather in recent years here, here and here. Sather deserves credit for building a contending core from the ground up, but what he’s done since just before the 2014 trade deadline has done more to harm than to help.
Sather has been all in – and justifiably so, given how close his club is to the Cup. But it’s the compounding of each mistake that has been crushing. Read More→
Who’s ready for another Game 7? I’m writing this as I watch the Blackhawks and Ducks duel, and it’s another reminder how much more enjoyable elimination games are when it’s not your team that’s playing. Tomorrow night is sure to be pure agony, at least until the final buzzer sounds. Then, hopefully, it will have been a ton of fun.
Since I can’t formulate coherent thoughts before this one, on to the musings:
– Though we can’t help but hope, there’s pretty much no chance Mats Zuccarello will play tomorrow. That said – if he were to practice today and was miraculously deemed game ready, where would he fit in the lineup? Zuccarello is not going to replace J.T. Miller in his old spot alongside Rick Nash and Derick Brassard after that trio produced 13 points in Game Six. Putting Zuccarello on the fourth line would obviously be a waste – but the same goes for Martin St. Louis, so slotting Zuc in on the third line and bumping MSL down doesn’t make sense either. The most likely hypothetical scenario would be to have Zuc replace Jesper Fast on the second line – but it’d be a real shame to banish Fast to fourth line Siberia with the way he’s played. Too bad it doesn’t matter.
– Speaking of Nash/Brassard/Miller, I did some quick addition after Tuesday’s game and noticed that the trio has accounted for 20 points in the series, just two fewer than the terrifying Triplets. Of course, 13 in one game skews that quite a bit, but hey, they did pretty much win that game singlehandedly (with help from Hank). You can show me all the statistics you want that say “clutch” isn’t real, but I refuse to believe it, and Brassard is a perfect counterexample.
I rarely listen to sports talk radio, but I tuned into the ESPN postgame show on Saturday as I drove home. It was shocking to hear fan after fan declare that this was sure to be a “quick series,” that the Rangers had clearly established their superiority and that it was nearly impossible to imagine a scenario in which the Lightning had a chance. All this after a 2-1 victory.
Granted, the Blueshirts played extremely well in Game One and deserved a more lopsided result, but the cockiness of Ranger fans was still incredible to behold.
Monday’s 6-2 beatdown seems to have quashed that, and once again the faithful and media alike are questioning Rick Nash’s performance, Martin St. Louis’ place in the lineup and even Henrik Lundqvist (seriously?). Read More→
We all know where things stand, and at this point further analysis seems pointless.
The reality of a win-or-go-home game is that a single bounce can end your season – or extend it.
As most expected, Washington has given New York all it can handle over the last two weeks. The Blueshirts’ affinity for one-goal games has gotten extremely annoying, but it’s unlikely to change tonight. Read More→
– I thought Monday was among Rick Nash’s best games of the year, and by far his best of the playoffs. Nash has been far better this postseason compared to last, but he’s still not finishing. That doesn’t make Nash a bad player, but it also means New York is going to have a tough time winning.
– Braden Holtby has been dominant. And yeah, the Rangers didn’t get nearly enough traffic in front of him early in Game 3, but Holtby has been in hero mode for the whole postseason. While goaltending issues have arisen for several other supposed contenders, Holtby has climbed close to the top of the list when you think about the league’s best netminders.
– I still think The Ghost of Marty St. Louis has one signature moment left, but he’s really fighting it. He’s a far cry from Mats Zuccarello on the top line, but luckily young bucks like Jesper Fast have been picking up some of the slack.
– Zuccarello’s absence has been evident from the opening puck drop of the series. The Blueshirts are an extremely deep team and could withstand most injuries, but Zuccarello is about as irreplaceable as it gets.
– Alex Ovechkin is terrifying. He didn’t even register a point on Monday night and his fingerprints were all over the game. The saying “you have to know where he is on every shift” is cliche and overused, but it absolutely applies to The Great 8 right now. This might be the best he’s ever played.
– One of the big knocks on the Capitals has been their lack of solid depth players behind Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but it’s hard to understand when you see the contributions guys like Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle make. Adding Evgeny Kuznetsov to the mix has been absolutely huge for Washington, too.
– Let’s not forget about Eric Fehr, who is still expected to return in this series. Fehr isn’t nearly as important to Washington as Zuccarello is to the Rangers, but he’s a solid secondary scorer that will only extend the Capitals’ lineup.
– I wrote about it last week, but the way the Caps play now is so reminiscent of John Tortorella’s Rangers. They keep you to the outside, block shots, play physical, outhustle you and have the star goaltender to hold it all together. The 2-1 deficit here isn’t because the Blueshirts are doing much wrong, it’s because Washington is a very, very good team.
– I thought this would go seven, and I still do.
Though it seems like the Rangers and Capitals clash in the playoffs every year, this Washington team is very different than the one the Blueshirts have met three times in the last four postseasons.
In some ways, the roles have been reversed. Whereas John Tortorella’s Black and Blueshirts were known for their grind it out style and fearless defense, former Capitals squads possessed all-world skill but lacked a winning mentality. Now it is Alain Vigneault’s team that is known for its speed and skill while Washington has adapted a more gritty defense-first style.
You only needed to watch the clinic the Caps put on in Monday’s pivotal Game 7 against the Islanders when they allowed just 11 shots to see the marked difference. Read More→