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Henrik Lundqvist is 14th on the all-time wins list and could move into the top 10 this season

Henrik Lundqvist is 14th on the all-time wins list and could move into the top 10 this season

Despite convincing data that Henrik Lundqvist remained at the top of his game last season, there has been growing chatter that Lundqvist is no longer among the game’s elite netminders.

“He’s dropped off a little bit for me,” an NHL scout told ESPN’s Craig Custance. “I hate to say it, but I think he’s on the backside of things now.”

There are likely a few reasons for the number of growing doubters:

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Oct
23

The Mika Zibanejad effect

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Mika Zibanejad drives up ice during a drill as the Ottawa Senators practice at the Canadian Tire Centre. Assignment - 119031 Photo taken at 10:47 on November 19. (Wayne Cuddington/ Ottawa Citizen)

It’s early so far in the 2016-17 regular season, but certain things are starting to become apparent. One of the most basic is that the Rangers’ new found speed and skill is going to be tough for teams to handle, or at the very least fun to watch, and one of the players who best exemplifies this is Mika Zibanejad. Although losing Derick Brassard, a fan favorite, was touch for many early returns on Zibanejad are overwhelmingly positive. Chris has already touched on his efficacy on the powerplay, but I thought I’d go a little bit more into how he plays at even strength.

What we can see with our eyes is that Zibanejad is fast, has good hands, and makes good passes. In particular, one of the things I noticed when I broke down every single one of his goals from last season over the summer is that he has good hands in tight, particularly when he’s on the receiving end of a low angle, vertical pass, helping to generate shots in close. He’s also pretty adept at setting up high danger scoring chances for his linemates, as we’ve seen so far with Chris Kreider, complimenting their skills with his own speed and vision.

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Miller (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

Miller (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Rangers are in an interesting position. They have a pretty big logjam at forward, one that even exists while two forwards are out with injuries. If and when both Pavel Buchnevich and Oscar Lindberg return, two forwards will need to be out of the lineup. This is a magnificent problem to have.

On the other side of the coin, the Rangers have a blue line that is likely one of the bottom-ten in the league. The biggest hole is at 1RD, where the Rangers have no real options. Dan Girardi isn’t an option there anymore. Kevin Klein struggled in the role last season. Adam Clendening isn’t a top pairing defenseman. Nick Holden is a lefty. Dylan McIlrath….yea not opening that can of worms.

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mika

Jeff Gorton may have landed his first trade theft as Rangers GM. Gorton has made many solid moves since replacing Glen Sather (as well as a couple of questionable ones but I digress…) and while it is perhaps premature to make bold statements, Mika Zibanejad is making Gorton look quite the savvy General Manager.

On the face of things, the Brassard/ Zibanejad deal should have an element of win/win for both sides. After all, Derick Brassard will be a solid player for the Senators, at least in the short term. However, even forgetting about the draft pick or financial elements the Rangers took advantage of, it’s the added dimension Zibanejad is giving the Rangers that makes this such an exciting deal for Rangers fans. That dimension is a much better, more dangerous powerplay for the long term.

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Buchnevich's extra time in the KHL looks like it's paying dividends

Buchnevich’s extra time in the KHL looks like it’s paying dividends

The Rangers’ 2016-2017 season is still in its infancy, but already positive signs abound for the vaunted rookie class. All of Jimmy Vesey, Pavel Buchnevich and Brady Skjei have looked very strong in the early going and they’ve quickly emerged as key contributors to a team in transition.

Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a tremendous shock. These aren’t your typical rookies, who are often lanky teenagers from Canadian junior hockey that wow in camp but are still a ways away from growing into their bodies and recognizing their potential.

Each of the Rangers’ rookies reached New York under unique circumstances, but prior to this season one thing they all had in common is that they’d established themselves against adult-level competition.

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2016-10-17-20_24_51

That awkward time Chris Kreider celebrated a goal by hugging the ref.

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chris kreider

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Chris Kreider has had an interesting Rangers career so far. He burst on the scene in the 2012 playoffs, but was up and down between the AHL and the NHL over the next two seasons. He stuck in the 2013-2014 season, as his rare combination of size and speed are matchup nightmares for opposing teams.

Kreider has been streaky as a Ranger, but certainly not ineffective. He’s put together a pair of 20-goal, 40-point seasons. But there is a common thinking that he could produce more. He’s been right on the cusp for a while, but the dry spells seem to always keep him from reaching 30 goals and perhaps 60 points.

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I tried this post last year and people seemed to really like it, so here’s the second edition!

Adam Clendening – #4

Pretty solid chirps from Clendening directed at the master himself, Paul Bissonnette.

Dan Girardi – #5

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Aug
14

Superstar expectations in the Big Apple

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Source: YouTube

With the spectacle this past week of Alex Rodriguez taking over the sports world, it was hard to not take notice of the superstar legacy that was (is?) his career. Since this is a hockey blog, the details are unimportant; the point here is that, whether you like him or not, he will go down as one of the best to have played the game. And for most of his career, not even at his natural position.

So you may be asking what this has to do with said hockey blog. Great question, friend. While thinking about Rodriguez’ infamous career, it brought about a lot of questions about sports and icons in general. The idea of him going out as a pariah is a joke, but that speaks more to the institution of the MLB and the club that didn’t protect him than anything. How about other guys with talent flowing out of their every pore and their public persona?

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Aug
06

Reasonable expectations for Brady Skjei

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brady skjei

The Rangers head into this season having lost their best defenseman in Keith Yandle, and with Dan Girardi and Mac Staal hanging around things aren’t looking so hot on the blue line. There’s still some reason to feel hopeful at least, given that the Rangers 28th overall pick from the 2012 draft, Brady Skjei, is due for a real shot with the Blueshirts after just dipping his toes in the water last year. That’s not to say however that Skjei will replace Yandle, who is truly one of the elite puck-moving defensemen in this league, but it will at the very least be fun to watch him grow and develop throughout the season. Given his skillset and pedigree, here’s what to expect.

In Skjei’s first season as a University of Minnesota Golden Gopher, he registered three points in 36 games, but he picked it up from there and found himself producing 14 points in 40 games the following year and 10 points the year after that. Following the conclusion of his 2014-15 college campaign he joined the Harftord Wolf Pack, with whom he played eight regular season games (registering no points) and 15 playoff games, notching a goal and two assists.

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