The Presidents’ Trophy is a nice feather in Alain Vigneault’s cap and deserved recognition for the remarkable regular season the Rangers are about to complete. But is it really worth anything?
All the trophy does is extend the home-ice advantage earned by winning the conference for one more round, and of course that only matters if the team actually reaches the Stanley Cup Final.
The power of home-ice advantage in the postseason has dwindled in recent years. Its value is considered to be greatest in pivotal Game Sevens, but since the 2004-2005 lockout the road team is actually 21-19 in those deciding games.
Miller finally found a home when he was deployed alongside Hayes and Carl Hagelin on a third line that developed instant chemistry. And when the Blueshirts traded Lee Stempniak and Anthony Duclair, Miller’s position was virtually guaranteed for the rest of the season. That regular spot in the lineup seems to have been the confidence boost Miller needed to settle in as an NHL regular and take his game to the next level.
Since then, he’s gotten better and better. In March Miller trailed just Hayes, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider in P/60 and ranked seventh on the team in SCF% (by War-on-Ice’s definition). Miller earned a promotion to the second line in the wake of Marty St. Louis’ injury and has fit right in.
Last week I covered the four Atlantic Division teams the Rangers could face in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so this week let’s take a look at the three Metro Division rivals that New York could meet in Round One.
New York – The upstart Islanders seized control of the Metro early in the season and paced the division for the majority of the year, but the club has struggled of late. The Isles are having their best season in ages, which will give the franchise huge momentum going into Brooklyn next year. Of course, winning a playoff round or two would only help. Though they added playoff veterans Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and Jaroslav Halak before the season, the Islanders are still very short on postseason experience. However, they are incredibly deep, especially up front where they possess the NHL’s fourth-ranked offense. This is one of the few teams that can nearly match the Rangers’ depth and mitigate their speed. The Islanders have ranked near the top of the league in CF% and FF% all year, but they have been trending down over the last couple months (ranking just behind the Blueshirts). Winger Kyle Okposo returned to the lineup two weeks ago, and though he’s struggled to find his game, Okposo could be a huge difference maker down the stretch. And of course it’d be remiss not to mention potential Art Ross/Hart Trophy winner John Tavares, who has been simply magnificent. Read More→
With a five-point lead and four games in hand on the second-place Islanders as well as a seven-point lead and two games in hand on the banged up Penguins, it’s looking more and more likely that the Rangers will win the Metro Division. If the Blueshirts do manage to hang on to their lead, they could face one of four Atlantic Division teams: Detroit, Boston, Ottawa or Florida. The Bruins currently hold wild card position, trailing the third-place Red Wings by four points and leading the Senators by the same number. However, with a dozen games to go and Boston streaking, it’s still possible the Bruins will overtake the Wings – just as it’s possible The Hamburglar, Andrew Hammond, will steer the rallying Sens into the postseason.
So with the Blueshirts comfortably in playoff position, let’s (gasp) take a look ahead at these potential first-round foes. Read More→
By any measure, Cam Talbot’s temporary reign as New York’s No. 1 goaltender has been a resounding success.
The Prince has been an adventure at times, mishandling the puck and giving up the occasional softie. But overall, it’s impossible to complain about Talbot’s sparking 11-2-3 record, 2.35 GAA and .920 SV% since taking over for Henrik Lundqvist (not including yesterday’s game). In fact, as MSG noted on Sunday night, Talbot’s numbers over the last two seasons stack up against any goalie in the league.
The Blueshirts are still counting down the days until Lundqvist’s return, but in the meantime Talbot has quashed any concerns about needing to bring in outside veteran help.
Talbot skeptics will wonder if the Rangers are playing so much better in front of Talbot as a team that they’re masking any of his deficiencies, and it’s a question I’ve asked myself. Indeed over the last few years, it has seemed like the Blueshirts tighten up defensively in front of their backup netminders and feel a little freer to take chances knowing the ultimate safety valve was sitting on his throne in the crease.
Once again it seemed like Rangers GM Glen Sather had little to no maneuverability under the salary cap, and once again Slats found a way to wriggle his payroll under the cap ceiling.
By exploiting a to this point little-used clause in the new collective bargaining agreement, Sather got Arizona to eat half of Yandle’s contract. Of course Sather had to sweeten his offers to persuade the Coyotes to offer financial aid, but Sather still shrewdly found a way to take on salary and improve his club when it seemed to be nearly impossible.
The Coyotes will absorb half of Yandle’s cap hit again next year, but the $2.625 million the Rangers have added to their payroll is still going to be difficult to work around given that the guys Yandle is replacing, John Moore and Matt Hunwick, counted just $851k and $600k, respectively, against the cap this season. Read More→
Much has been made of the Rangers’ salary cap woes with the likes of Mats Zuccarello, Martin St. Louis, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin set to be free agents and the ceiling unlikely to increase much in the offseason. However, the emergence of several top prospects has made biting the bullet of letting a key player or two go much easier.
Obviously every franchise wants to retain as much talent as possible, but of course there is only so much money and so many positions to go around. The good news is that the team is well prepared to weather a significant loss.
Anthony Duclair and Pavel Buchnevich are potential replacements for Zuccarello, St. Louis and Hagelin; Brady Skjei will take the Matt Hunwick/John Moore job; and now it looks like even Oscar Lindberg could be useful should the team need to deal Dominic Moore in a penny-saving move.
What a time it is to be Glen Sather these days. One of his favorite times of the year is quickly approaching, but Sather’s carefully crafted trade deadline plan has been continuously influenced by new developments over the last few weeks.
First Henrik Lundqvist went down with a scary vascular injury, ceding his throne to backup Cam Talbot. The Prince had played well in spot duty over the last two seasons, but it was still anyone’s guess how he would respond to immediate full-time duty. Though it’s been rocky at times, Talbot has seized the job with a 5-1-1 record since taking over as the starter.
The team’s chief perceived position of need was at third-line center, but Kevin Hayes has been white-hot of late and it almost seems like it would be a shame to give away his gig in the middle to a mercenary when Hayes himself could continue raising his level. Read More→
Henrik Lundqvist’s injury may have you feeling otherwise, but the Rangers remain in excellent shape to make the postseason. With an eight-point cushion over ninth-place Florida, securing a wild card berth shouldn’t be difficult even if overtaking the Penguins and Islanders for the Metro Division title may now be unrealistic.
Of course the team’s playoff hopes are pinned to Lundqvist, but there’s reason to believe the best is still ahead for the 2014-2015 Blueshirts – and it’s not because they’re sure to add an impact player by the trade deadline.
When you stop to think about it, how many players are really having standout seasons? Rick Nash, obviously. Kevin Klein has certainly exceeded expectations. Derek Stepan has been a point-per-game player when healthy. And Kevin Hayes has been a pleasant surprise as a rookie. Read More→
Much of the early trade deadline fervor both around the league and in New York has been about what the Arizona Coyotes might do. GM Don Maloney has been screaming “WE ARE SELLERS” at the top of his lungs and Arizona has several attractive pieces, including pending free agent Antoine Vermette. Suit also suggested looking into Yotes defensemen Michael Stone. The Rangers are surely checking on Vermette, but Newsday’s Steve Zipay suggested that another member of the Coyotes, Martin Hanzal, might be a better fit for New York.
On the ice, he might be right. But as always, the financials come into play.
Vermette and Hanzal are very different players. Vermette brings scoring punch, having scored over 20 goals in four seasons. He’s that extra offensive weapon that many past versions of the Rangers would covet.