Dan Boyle should really help the PP when he returns. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America
There’s been quite a gap between the Rangers’ games this week, with the wild comeback against the Wild feeling like an eternity ago. Quite a bit has happened in Rangerland since so let’s take a look around at some of the goings on.
Veterans to the rescue
Derek Stepan and Dan Boyle resume skating. The Rangers cannot get these two players back fast enough. Stepan’s absence had destroyed team depth at center and the Rangers’ issues on defense have been well documented. With the Rangers powerplay needing help, Boyle and Stepan could be the perfect tonic to a unit that has been – at best – underwhelming to this point.
Is the Rangers goaltending pipeline improving?
The Rangers have tried to remedy the lack of depth behind Henrik Lundqvist recently and there’s a few intriguing prospects worth a keeping an eye on. Brandon Halverson typifies the modern goaltender, being a big man at 6’4, and he’s off to a strong start in junior winning 7 games in his first ten appearances although his peripherals (GAA 3.15, S% .904) aren’t exciting. Reports are he’s playing well though.
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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America
Today is an off-day for the Rangers, so the day is slow. Yesterday saw a little bit of action, as John Moore was suspended for give games, and Alain Vigneault shook up the defensive pairings as a result. In some good news Derek Stepan is on track to be activated off LTIR next week.
- Looking at those new defensive pairings, that bottom four is just bad. First, Dan Girardi on his off-handed side is risky, and pairing him with Kevin Klein doesn’t exactly instill confidence. Second, Matt Hunwick has been good, but he’s seen sheltered minutes. Pairing him with Mike Kostka, who is better than his epic fail game this season, is a risk. These two are a pair of 7Ds being asked to play 12-14 minutes together. Dan Boyle, please heal soon.
- I’d have to venture a guess that this is a one game trial for these pairings. At least it’s against Winnipeg. But it does beg the question: Why are there no call ups? It’s early in the season, and at some point you have to see what you have in Conor Allen. The opening came on the left side, so why not see what he’s got? He has a very similar skill set to Moore, Kostka, and Hunwick as well.
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Al Bello/Getty Images
Since we often preach patience and the long-view around here, I find it very difficult to identify specific narrative topics when the season is only five games old. Many of our observations will normalize or end up a blip on the big picture radar. Most sample sizes are too small, trends too tenuous and in the case of the Rangers, too injury dependent. Once Stepan and Boyle return, we will start to see the true colors of this team, but until then, I feel like some random thoughts are more appropriate than digging into too much data or player performance numbers. I’ll be curious to see if your thoughts are consistent with mine during this time of upheaval…
- Is it wrong that I was excited just to see that second win so things didn’t spiral out of control like last October?
- Man, Lee Stempniak has been great. We all were fully on-board with the signing when it happened, but he has gotten off to a much better start than we could have reasonably expected.
- Ryan McDonagh played over 30 minutes last night. In October. Loco.
- Rick Nash is a monster. I had a feeling that the post-concussion symptoms were holding him back last season. He was horribly snake bitten in the playoffs, but has broken out again in a big way to start this year. Goals aside, he had made strong moves to the net, utilizing his size and reach with great results. If he can stay healthy, he will be an absolute force this season.
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Courtesy of Getty Images
Chris did the heavy lifting today with his post this morning, covering for me while I figure out what I did to my wrist. Luckily, it’s my left wrist, so my social life will go –ahem– unaffected. I get to give you some musings and thoughts after a three game losing streak. Since each time I need to move my left wrist hurts, it’s going to be a short list. Sorry about that.
- Is it Halloween yet? No? Ok then. No use panicking. This team was in much worse shape last year at this point, and they went to the Stanley Cup Finals. This year’s team has two major injuries to key players (Derek Stepan, Dan Boyle), and already has much better puck possession numbers than last year at this point in the season (small sample size). I’m not worried.
- Speaking of those injuries, these were two guys the Rangers really couldn’t afford to lose. They were already thin at center, and team defense was downgraded this summer. With Boyle, the Rangers certainly didn’t count on replacing Anton Stralman with Mike Kostka or Matt Hunwick. That one probably hurt the most. At least the Rangers had Martin St. Louis, an incredibly smart player, to take over 1C temporarily.
- Focusing on the defensive play of the entire team: I think the Isles game was the best example of how the Rangers can do the right things, but coverage failures (and yes, turnovers) can doom any team, even if they dominate puck possession.
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Three losses in four games and 12 goals against in the first two home contests certainly isn’t how the Rangers wanted to start the season, but it’s not altogether unexpected. With No. 1 center Derek Stepan and No. 4 D Dan Boyle on the shelf, and a slew of raw youngsters in the lineup, it’s no surprise that the Blueshirts have been a dumpster fire in their own end. There are certainly very real causes for concern, but there is plenty of time to right the ship – just take a look back at how last season started.
So since it’s all gloom and doom in Ranger-land this morning, let’s check out some of the things that are going right for New York, many of which have come as pleasant surprises:
– Rick Nash has six goals in four games. That’s a pretty decent start, by any measure. The #fancystats crowd insisted Nash would bounce back after a horribly unlucky postseason, but this offensive explosion has eclipsed anyone’s wildest dreams. This confidence boost will be huge for Nash after he was forced to take a long look in the mirror last spring, and it could be the start of a monster year.
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Tonight is opening night, and if you haven’t caught the systems preview, you should. The Rangers are in St. Louis tonight, Columbus on Saturday, and then open at home on Sunday against Toronto. Chris is hung up at work, so you all have to suffer through a musings with me.
- There are a lot of questions about the center depth for this club. It’s something I brought up last month, and that was before the injury to Derek Stepan. The fact is that the Rangers have a winger playing center (Martin St. Louis), and a rookie as the pivot for the third line. Even when Stepan returns, you have the same concern about J.T. Miller’s future at 3C, and whether or not Derick Brassard can handle 2C competition.
- As for Miller, the reason why I think he’s best off as a winger is because of the defensive responsibilities of the center position compared to the wing. He’s been vastly improved this season, but until he proves he can handle the defensive responsibilities on a consistent basis, there will be questions about his ability to play 3C and the Rangers center depth as a whole.
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What to expect from Jesper Fast? (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
The Rangers are entering the home straight and the regular season is almost upon us. It’s a Thursday so let’s throw together some thoughts about the past few days in Rangerland.
Anthony Duclair. Everyone’s favourite Rangers’ prospect appears to be forcing the organisation’s hand into finding him a roster spot. 5 points, 3 goals in 3 games. Blazing speed, a wicked shot and respectable defense for a 19 year old rookie who, two weeks ago, wasn’t on anyone’s radar (for this season).
The thing is this: if he makes it, if he plays, he has to be on a scoring line to be effective. Is there an appropriate spot up for grabs and who suffers as a result? The most realistic scenario would be Mats Zuccarello slipping to the third line (also a productive line under coach Vigneault) but can the team justify pushing their top scoring forward of last year down to the third line for a 19 year old? It’s a great dilemma to have but also a major headache, potentially.
October 9th, at St Louis and then at the Blue Jackets two days later. Do the Rangers have the hardest opening two game set? A road trip to the big, physical Blues and Jackets? It gets physical quickly for the Rangers.
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Breakout candidate? Photo: Getty Images
It’s the dawn of a new season and already we’re full of anticipation, panic and dilemma… What fun it is to be a New York Rangers fan. Anyway, it’s Thursday so let’s have the first Musings of the season shall we? There’s plenty to talk about.
The obvious major talking point in Rangerland is the injury to Derek Stepan. I’m an optimist. Stepan’s injury hurts the Rangers in the short term but his absence shouldn’t cost the team a playoff berth and the team has plenty of younger prospects they can test out. This is an opportunity the franchise may never have had if it were not for the injury. Now is the time to throw in a Lindberg, Hayes and/or JT Miller and see whether they can step into a full time NHL role.
Long term, the injury to Stepan may have been a blessing in disguise if the Rangers develop one (or more) prospects for the long term because of this unfortunate situation. If this was Lundqvist going down for a long stretch it would be time to panic but Stepan missing 10-12 games will not cost the club long term. No need to panic. Prospect development time is upon us.
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We’re (finally) just one day away from training camp! There will be a whole lot of real Ranger news coming up, but since we’ve exhausted pretty much every type of camp preview imaginable this summer – allow me just one more random post before the action kicks into high gear.
What would happen if you were to pit the 2014 New York Rangers against the best lineup of former Blueshirts still currently playing in the NHL?
Here’s my take on the best hypothetical roster of ex-Rangers that takes into account positions and logical scoring and checking lines:
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Ryan Bourque is riding a wave of momentum after his strong second-half performance last season
Immediately after July 1, it looked like the Rangers would have several forward spots open to competition at training camp. However, the eventual signings of Matt Lombardi, Lee Stempniak and Kevin Hayes have made it much more difficult for anyone else to earn a spot in the lineup. The likes of J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg still figure to duke it out with some of those depth signings for the final spot or two, but it’s going to be exceedingly difficult for anyone else to enter the fray. With that said, here’s a look at the handful of forwards and defensemen that could conceivably be in the mix with a standout performance at camp.
Ryan Malone – This one is a real long-shot not only because of the legal questions surrounding Malone, but because the Rangers would have to ship out a player to fit Malone under the 50-contract limit. Malone was once an effective power forward and is presumably being invited to training camp on the off chance the Blueshirts catch lightning in a bottle in their search to replace Benoit Pouliot, but unless Malone dominates, it’s highly unlikely he makes the team.
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