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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→

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When the New York Rangers replaced Anton Stralman with Dan Boyle (for all intents and purposes, this is what was done), the fan base was very divided. On one side of the coin, folks were pumped about his powerplay contributions. The other side of the coin was worried about the even strength downgrade from Stralman to Boyle. Neither side was wrong, but both sides were vocal about the positives and negatives.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Boyle is not producing points as expected. When he was signed, even those that doubted his even strength contributions took note that he should help the powerplay. As noted in the linked post, he certainly opens up options and passing lanes, but he simply hasn’t produced with the man advantage. That said, he’s still producing at his normal rate at even strength.

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Speedy kids anchoring Rangers depth

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Jesper Fast for Derek Dorsett. J.T. Miller for Benoit Pouliot. Kevin Hayes for Brian Boyle.

Three cap saving moves made by the New York Rangers. Three moves that, at the start (or middle, depending on when the player came into the lineup) of the season, were met with more questions than answers. But here we are in March, and all three have prominent roles with the Rangers. All three are solidifying the forward depth. All three have one thing in common: Speed.

Under Alain Vigneault, the Rangers have moved from a game anchored around defense and north-south skating to an east-west, counter attack style of play. Vigneault has molded the Rangers using their best asset, their skating ability. It has been the club’s philosophy –for the most part– when drafting and targeting free agents. It is their biggest strength, and as we’ve seen all year, it’s giving opponents fits.

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The Chris Kreider conundrum

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The beauty of writing about a team as good as the New York Rangers is that we’re at liberty to analyze the minor things that other teams dream of having as their number one problem. Half of our fanbase is currently at war with the other half because they’re mean to our 12th forward. Our franchise player has been out for roughly two months and yet the team is still thriving. It’s great to be a Rangers fan right now.

Something that’s been nagging at me like a shin splint lately has been the physical beast that is Chris Kreider. We’ve all seen the pool video. Listed at 6’3, 226 lbs, and only 23 years old (and such an absolutely beautiful skater), he’s exactly what every team wants. One day when he learns how to control himself, I’m gonna kick myself for wasting time writing this post, but til then, I digress…

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Scouting potential wild card opponents

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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→

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I guess I’m going to hedge my bets here. When Marc Staal signed his massive contract extension, my initial thought was that Carl Hagelin was going to be the odd-man out. It was a purely business decision under the assumption that the New York Rangers were, without a doubt, re-signing Martin St. Louis to an incentive-laden contract. After all, the Rangers do need to clear a spot for Anthony Duclair next season. Since Hagelin, MSL, and Mats Zuccarello are the only free agent wingers in top-nine roles, it makes sense that they would need to choose two of the three.

Understandably so, the notion of letting Hagelin go was met with some backlash. At that point, MSL had been producing points, and to be honest, I hadn’t 100% looked at his underlying numbers too much. I know how good Zucc’s and Hags’ numbers are, having evaluated them multiple times. I guess I fell victim to MSL’s reputation. Hey, it happens.

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If you’ve been reading this blog a while, then you know we’ve been questioning Dan Girardi’s deployment for quite some time now. Love him or hate him, the fact remains that Girardi will be a member of the Rangers for the next five seasons. Since the Rangers are, for better or worse, married to Girardi long-term, it is now about utilizing this resource to get the most out of what is almost guaranteed to be some painful decline years.

Let’s get the easy part out of the way: Girardi is not the player he used to be. Whether you believe it to be a regression due to age, or that the switch to Alain Vigneault’s aggressive system exploited his skating ability, or that he just wasn’t good to begin with, it doesn’t matter. What we see today is what we have.

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Captain McDonagh’s grace period

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Last summer, I wrote a post outlining teams around the league who had yet to name captains, guessing who they would choose and whether or not that would be my choice.  At the time I wrote it, it was widely speculated that the Rangers would name Ryan McDonagh the next captain, following in the footsteps of many greats. Heck, I even wrote why I thought he should be chosen. So, having been right, how do I think McDonagh is faring?

Let’s look at statistics.  Mac seems to be struggling this year, but is he really? He has only 18 points through 40 games this year, which isn’t too far off from his pace set last year of 43 points in 77 games played.  There is something that feels off, though; several stretches of point-less games (most recently, a 7 point streak that ended with an assist on January 20 vs. Ottawa), a lack of presence defensively, etc. Read More→

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News broke yesterday that Jesper Fast will be out for 2-3 weeks with a Grade 1 knee sprain. Losing Fast is a bigger loss than most realize, as Fast had been a key cog in the bottom six. He has shown the ability to play up on the third line and drive puck possession. He has shown he can play a shutdown role on the fourth line. He has been one of the team’s top penalty killers. He has also been inducted into Alain Vigneault’s Circle of Trust.

Considering the need to find another center, preferably one that can win faceoffs, perhaps the answer is in Oscar Lindberg. Lindberg, acquired from Arizona in 2011 for Ethan Werek, has been one of the Hartford Wolf Pack’s best forwards this season. Actually, I’d say he’s been the best forward not named Chris Bourque. In 46 games this season, Lindberg has been logging big time minutes in Hartford and has responded with a line of 13-18-31. He is second on the team (to Bourque) in all three categories.

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Is it time to sell high on Kevin Klein?

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Continuing with the trend of posts that will get me yelled at, it’s time to look at Kevin Klein, his career season, his career averages, and if anything like what we’ve seen so far this season will continue. Klein is having a sensational season this year. He’s already doubled his career high in goals (8), is well on his pace to beating his career high in points (21), and has arguably been the best right-handed defenseman on the Rangers this season. It truly is remarkable the year he’s having.

But, and yes there’s a but, there are a lot of warning signs that this may not continue.On December 8, Klein was shooting 21.4% (six goals in 28 shots). He has two goals in 24 shots since then, dropping his SH% by six points (15.4%) in that two month span. Although his booming shot from the point is still a weapon, that offensive production is already starting to slip. It would be nice to see him get powerplay time with that shot, but that’s a whole other topic for a different day.

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