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pavel buchnevich

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The Rangers should have already seen enough from Pavel Buchnevich that it should be the talented Russian (and Chris Kreider) that should be the cornerstone(s) of the offense moving forward. Of course, JT Miller, Kevin Hayes and Mika Zibanejad should be critical components of this team up front but no one has the upside of Kreider and Buchnevich.

The Rangers need to make some bold decisions about the state of the offense over the next half a season or so and any decision should revolve around Kreider and Buchnevich. The Rangers have a ton of young depth but none are more important than Buch.

Can you really focus an offense around a young man that has 17 games in the NHL? Yes you can. Is it too early to do so? Perhaps, but teams need to commit to their young talent earlier than ever in the current NHL and Buchnevich is a good example of a player you hitch your wagon to.

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Jan
30

Jimmy Vesey and the NCAA wall

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jimmy vesey

Photo: Brad Penner-USA Today

As the prized offseason signing for the Rangers, Jimmy Vesey burst onto the scene in his first month of NHL action. The highly touted rookie put up a line of 6-3-9 in his first ten NHL games, as the Rangers blew teams away to start the season. But as the Rangers dealt with injuries and the scoring regressed to a more realistic pace, Vesey’s scoring has disappeared. In his past 38 games, Vesey has scored just five goals and five assists, a far cry from the near point-per-game pace.

The dip in scoring was to be expected. It’s rare you get rookies that can score at a point per game, and those kids are usually taken in the top-five picks. Vesey was a third rounder and not an elite talent like McDavid or Matthews. Beyond the expected drop off, this is also the most hockey Vesey has ever played. He has played 48 games thus far, and the last time he even touched 40 games was in 2011-2012.

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adam clendening

Outside of Dan Girardi, there is no one player that divides the Rangers fan base more than Adam Clendening. Opinions on Clendo seem to be at both extremes of the spectrum, with some thinking he should be given regular minutes and is a solid RD, while others think he’s useless. There seems to be very little grey area in this debate, but the grey area is the best area, since that’s where the truth lies.

Before really analyzing Clendo’s strengths and weaknesses, perhaps it’s best to review both sides of the discussion. Those that want him in the lineup regularly see his skating and puck moving abilities and relate that to a big need for the Rangers. Those that believe he is useless see the flaws in his gap control and coverages in the defensive zone. But the question that draws the most discussion is whether or not Clendo is an upgrade on Girardi and/or Kevin Klein.

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henrik lundqvist

One of the major storylines this season is the apparent decline of Henrik Lundqvist. At 34 years old (35 in March), Lundqvist is at the age where goalies tend to decline, and it seems that goalies do this relatively quickly. It’s fair to expect some level of decline from Hank, but there is a section of vocal fans that think Lundqvist is done.

Let’s be clear: Lundqvist is not having a good season by his standards. His .907 SV% is well off his career average of .920, his medium danger SV% is in the toilet, and Steve Valliquette mentioned on a recent broadcast that he’s letting in unscreened shots through at a much higher rate (I think it was 1-in-23 this year, as opposed to 1-in-40). However there is a difference between “bad” and “not Lundqvist.”

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Jan
16

Chris Kreider’s breakout season

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chris kreider

Much of the discussion this season has been on the defensive issues, Henrik Lundqvist’s inconsistencies, and what the team needs to do to be a true contender in the Eastern Conference. Lost in all this, however, is the season being had by Chris Kreider. Kreider has been a beast this year, and appears to finally be having that breakout season we all expected over the past few years.

Kreider already has 17 goals and 31 points in 38 games this season, and would likely be slightly higher had he not missed a few games with back spasms. Increased production on the powerplay (4-4-8 already) has played a role in Kreider’s breakout season, but it’s the consistency that seems to be the major change this year. Through the first half of the season, Kreider hasn’t gone through one of his traditional long slumps without scoring.

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rangers hurricanes

Nash has been good, almost great. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Where do you start with the Rangers top six? If you’re grading the offense as a whole, it’s fair to say you would give the team a strong grade – probably A level.

The Rangers boast an elite (at least statistically) powerplay, they sit second in the league in goals per game (3.4/game) and have scored more goals than every team in the league (144 at time of writing). However, when you break it down, has every player played to his own individual ability?

Rick Nash

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marek hrivik

Photo: Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty

If you were to pick a member of the Hartford Wolf Pack that would be an unsung hero for the Rangers this year, my guess is Marek Hrivik wouldn’t have been your first choice. Maybe it would have been Nicklas Jensen, or perhaps Boo Nieves. Hrivik may have been in the discussion, sure, but very few would have picked him first.

But that’s exactly what Hrivik has been thus far. He doesn’t have a good offensive stat line, which just two assists in 16 games. Hrivik has been a mainstay on the fourth line for the past 16 games, providing much needed stability. He’s one of the key reasons that the Rangers have been so successful while dealing with a number of major injuries.

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AP Photo/Alex Brandon

With the hot start Brandon Pirri got off to as a Ranger it was hard to understand how he bounced around the league so much – he looked like a potential top six shooter, albeit one with defensive deficiencies. He certainly looked like a guy that should be potting 20 goals per year and not bouncing around a league desperate for goal scorers. The past month or so however, and it’s a lot easier to see why Pirri hasn’t stuck with any team for a prolonged period.

Pirri hasn’t just blown hot and cold, he’s just disappeared for stretches. He’s been a passenger far too many times despite having some significant tools at his disposal. Pirri has good offensive instincts and he has a great shot but too often recently he hasn’t brought anything to the table.

Pirri’s last goal was December 11th. He’s gone ten games without scoring. Before that he went twelve games without finding the net. He has just 60 shots (at time of writing) on net despite owning a shot that many players would sell their mothers for. When your best hope of sticking in the NHL is your release you better be releasing it more often.

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Jan
03

Has Rick Nash has become untouchable?

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rangers hurricanes

Rick Nash may never again score 40 goals in a season, but his play this season should put any debate about his Rangers’ future to bed. So long as Dan Girardi is on the Rangers blue line, and Jeff Gorton doesn’t significantly address the Rangers defense, the Rangers cannot afford to get rid of a genuinely elite two-way player such as Nash.

Nash’s play without the puck and his defensive conscience are essential to the team, as in his absence we’ve seen inconsistent play from the forwards in their own zone. The Rangers are not a good team defensively and this relative ineptitude in their own zone has only enforced Nash’s importance to the cause.

Even before confirmation that he needs to be protected in the expansion draft, Nash’s own impressive play this season should have made him a player the Rangers would have protected anyway. There is simply no replacing Nash. Whether it’s his ability as a goal scorer, as a leader, or as a two-way example to the younger players on the roster. Cap hit and age be damned.

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dan girardi

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

The Rangers need defensive help. Most of that is because of the rapid decline of Dan Girardi, who continues to play on the top pair due to lack of other options on the Rangers. No matter where you sit on the Girardi spectrum, it’s tough to argue against Girardi being a shell of what he was five years ago. Players like him deserve a leash, but that leash should have run out two years ago.

Beyond his declining play, his contract is an albatross to the Rangers. He is signed for another three years following the 2016-2017 season, with a $5.5 million cap hit. The Rangers were able to get some cap breathing space in the Derick Brassard/Mika Zibanejad swap, but not enough to make an adequate fix to the defense. Even if the Rangers had the space to make an upgrade, there’s no room for additions. Something has to give.

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