Stats to chew on: Olympic break edition

Mats Zuccarello has been money against Metro Division rivals

- Only five players have more game-winning goals than Rick Nash (6).

- Only Alex Ovechkin is averaging more shots per game than Rick Nash (4.1).

- Only nine players have more points against their own division than Mats Zuccarello’s 21.

- Only eight players have more penalty minutes on home ice than Chris Kreider (53).  Only Dallas’s Antoine Roussel has actually committed more penalties on home ice than Kreider (20).

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Why can’t the Rangers come out of the East?

The Rangers probably won’t win the Stanley Cup this year – but their chances would go from slim to almost none without Ryan Callahan

Unfortunately, we were not able to get the goal breakdown last night since Dave was traveling for work, Chris was traveling for pleasure, Suit had a hockey game, Becky was working late, etc, etc. Check back later this afternoon for an abbreviated recap.

One of the chief arguments for trading Ryan Callahan and/or Dan Girardi is that the Rangers aren’t a contender this year even with those veterans on board, so the team should trade one or both to set itself up for the future.

The organization has made it very clear that winning now is the goal, a philosophy many pessimistic fans don’t agree with because they don’t see the roster as talented enough to take home the ultimate prize.  To me, that’s the wrong way of looking at it.

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Cam Fowler isn’t a Ranger – get over it

The Dylan McIlrath pick was a mistake, but can we please move on?

After Michael Del Zotto was traded last week, many folks in the Ranger Twittersphere turned again to the decision to draft Dylan McIlrath over Cam Fowler as a franchise-crippling blow.  Many believe that the Rangers passed on drafting Fowler because they thought they already had a very similar player in Del Zotto and Fowler would have been redundant.  Meanwhile, McIlrath was a very unusual commodity that could fill a long-standing hole, so the team happily selected him at No. 10.  Of course, Del Zotto never met expectations in New York and Fowler is enjoying a breakout year in his fourth NHL season, so Rangers fans are filled with regret.

The 2010 draft has become one of the biggest gripes among Ranger fans in recent years, but it’s time to let it go.  Whether you believe McIlrath will turn into a second-pairing D-man or not, it’s hard to argue at this point that the Blueshirts’ brass didn’t make a mistake.  So did many other teams that year, so do many teams every other year.

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Rangers’ superstars finally playing like superstars

The Rangers have been waiting for Rick Nash’s offensive explosion

If you’re still ignoring the #fancystats movement, you’re missing out on some awesome information that provides a lot of further insight to the game.  But one thing we don’t need advanced stats to tell us is that to succeed in the NHL you A) need good players, and B) need your good players to play well.

That was missing early in the season when the Rangers’ best players, Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist, were non-factors (Nash was hurt, Lundqvist was playing some of the worst hockey of his career).  However, over the past month both men have returned to their old superstar forms, and not coincidentally, New York has played its best hockey of the season.  The Rangers are 11-4-1 in their last 16 games dating back to December 22nd, and in that stretch, Nash has recorded 12 points (10 goals, two assists) while Lundqvist has a 1.97 GAA and a .933 SV%.

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How the 2013 free agent class has performed this season

David Clarkson’s contract looks like a disaster for Toronto

We’re just past the halfway mark of the 2013-2014 season and it’s a pretty safe time to evaluate how a player’s season has gone.  So with that in mind, let’s take a look back at the unrestricted free agent class of 2013 – specifically some forwards that could have been Ranger targets as they sought to bolster their offense.  Were these players money well spent?*

David Clarkson – seven years, $36.75 million

2013-2014 stats: 3 goals, 5 assists, 102 hits, 51 penalty minutes

Toronto would love a way out of this one already.  Clarkson has rarely been healthy, and he’s been ineffective when he has been on the ice.

Valtteri Filppula – five years, $25 million

2013-2014 stats: 18 goals, 18 assists, 12 power play points, 88 shots

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Where would the Rangers be without their power play?

Derick Brassard has been money on the power play lately

Encouraging signs have been far and few between for much of the 2013-2014 season, but somehow the Blueshirts remain a single point out of a playoff spot in the awful Metro Division.

One of the chief reasons New York has been able to hang around is its suddenly potent power play.  What was a team weakness for years has turned into a huge strength – and if the Rangers do end up making the playoffs in the spring, improved special teams might be the No. 1 reason.

At even strength, the Blueshirts have tumbled down the league rankings.  New York’s offense ranked 15th in the league last season, but is 24th this year.  The team’s once vaunted defense and goaltending allowed the fourth-fewest goals against last year, but is ranked just 15th during the current campaign.

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Rangers midseason grades: bottom-six forwards

When healthy, Derek Dorsett has been everything the Rangers hoped for

Like many parts of the 2013-2014 roster, the bottom-six forwards have struggled through long stretches of the season thus far.  Part of that can be attributed to players being used out of place and in unusual situations, but the team hasn’t gotten consistent play out of many of its depth forwards for most of the year.  That seems to be changing over the last few weeks, and has been as instrumental to the team’s mini turnaround as anything else.

Brian Boyle

Boyle will forever be a polarizing player amongst Ranger fans because he has hands of stone and doesn’t drive opponents through the boards with his massive size.  You can’t really judge Boyle fairly until you accept those two facts of life, which many refuse to do.  But Boyle is a very useful player in many other areas.  Though this hasn’t been his finest year, Boyle is still being relied on as the team’s top defensive forward, plays well on the penalty kill, is the best faceoff man on the team and drives possession.  He is guilty of being a passenger at times this season the same as nearly every player on the roster, but for the most part, Boyle has been use usual steady self.  Still, scoring just one goal all year is pretty hard to do.

Grade: B Read more »

Rangers’ resurgence won’t last long if top forwards don’t start producing

The Rangers need much more from Derek Stepan

The Rangers were able to salvage their franchise-record homestand with wins over Minnesota and Toronto, but things still need to change if the Blueshirts are going to turn their season around.

New York’s 27th-ranked offense has been carried by the likes of Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Benoit Pouliot over the last two weeks, while the team’s top players continue to struggle.  Rick Nash hasn’t scored in any of his last six games, and has just one goal in his last nine.  Brad Richards hasn’t scored in eight games and Derek Stepan has just three goals in his last 23 games.  Not coincidentally, those cold streaks have coincided with the team’s worst stretch of the season.

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The catch-22 the Rangers are caught in

All eyes are on Glen Sather

Alain Vigneault was hired to win a Stanley Cup.  That’s not just a cliche that every coach says to endear himself to fans, it’s the truth of the matter.  After John Tortorella followed up an Eastern Conference Finals appearance with a second round playoff exit last year, GM Glen Sather determined that a new head man was needed to push the Blueshirts over the top and capture hockey’s ultimate prize.

Vigneault, who came within a single game of winning the Cup in 2011, was viewed as the man that could get more out of the team’s offense to go with its trademark top goalie and stellar defense.  But just six months after Sather made the coaching switch, his team is much further away from winning it all than when Vigneault arrived. Read more »

Free agency is still months away, but the Rangers will have some tough decisions to make

Ryan Callahan’s injury woes are concerning, but New York will still likely do everything it can to keep its captain

Quick note: Dave was at the game last night, so the goal breakdown will be done for the afternoon post.

The Rangers’ season is quickly spiraling out of control and it’s probably a matter of time before GM Glen Sather steps in and makes a major shakeup.  But with so many pending free agents and so many players underperforming, it’s a certainty that the 2014-2015 version of the Blueshirts will look drastically different than the edition that stunk up the joint last night against Nashville.  So let’s take a look at New York’s upcoming free agents and see who might still be around next year, and who could be gone.

Ryan Callahan - Yet another injury has clouded this situation.  A few months ago it would have been unthinkable to imagine life without Callahan, but his health is becoming increasingly concerning.  New York’s doctors will have to evaluate Callahan’s physical condition, but assuming he’s in one piece, I still expect the Rangers to do everything they can to lock up their captain long-term.  Some of the beat writers think Callahan would be very tempted to join the Sabres next summer to move closer to home, but though I’m sure Callahan loves Rochester, New York City isn’t all that far away and I can’t imagine Callahan joining a rebuilding team.  If things really fall apart for the Blueshirts and there’s not much progress in negotiations, I could see Callahan being tempted by a contender.  But it’s still most likely the Rangers will retain their captain, albeit at a very steep price.  Remember, the Rangers paid RFAs Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Michael Sauer over Callahan in 2011 and gave him a lesser deal due to the resulting cap crunch.  No. 24 swallowed that bitter pill then, but it’s unlikely New York will be getting a hometown discount this time around.

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