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Category: State of the Rangers

The Rangers need more from Chris Kreider

We haven't seen Kreider goal celebrations nearly enough. Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

We haven’t seen Kreider goal celebrations nearly enough. Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

Thank god the Rangers have Rick Nash. That’s a statement not just uttered countless times by the Ranger fan base but is something that Chris Kreider has probably said a few times this season as well. Luckily for Kreider, Nash’s blistering start has diverted a lot of attention from several underperforming players including Kreider.

Kreider has had games this year where he has been utterly dominant. The big winger has been a wrecking ball and an offensive threat on almost every shift in some games. Then there is the Kreider that has disappeared and who has been a liability while contributing nothing offensively.

Right now, we’re seeing both sides from Kreider and that’s simply not good enough. He’s playing physically yet he’s not contributing offensively. This is the year that Kreider should be taking the next step, the year that he should be developing the consistency that elite players are known for. Obviously the skill set is there for Kreider to be a top tier power forward but he’s not delivering to expectations.

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Should the Rangers be worried about Dan Girardi and Marc Staal’s form?

Can the Rangers rely on Dan Girardi? Photo: McIsaac/Getty

Can the Rangers rely on Dan Girardi? Photo: McIsaac/Getty

With a few exceptions the Rangers have been abysmal in their own end for almost the entire season. Whether it’s been the disruptions to the line up caused by the myriad of injuries or ‘a lack of desperation’ (says Rick Nash) or execution on any particular game night, it doesn’t matter. The Rangers have not been good enough.

The Rangers play a bad Flyers team Wednesday night. However they play a team that is loaded with offensive talent and given the Rangers’ struggles in their own end it is a game the Rangers could easily lose – particularly in their current state.

Consider the Rangers most senior blueliners for a moment. Dan Girardi is being paid like an elite defenseman. Marc Staal is expecting to be paid like an elite defenseman. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle are being paid handsomely and even Kevin Klein is being paid better than most. Yet the Rangers defense has been appalling.

It’s unfair to expect miracles from a Matt Hunwick or Mike Kostka. Even less can be reasonably expected of Conor Allen and Dylan McIlrath. However, a significant portion of the blame needs to lie at the feet of Girardi and Staal. Their play causes significant concern moving forward.

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The Rangers haven’t been able to replace Brad Richards

Richards finished third on the team with 51 points last year

We’ve spent a lot of time bemoaning the loss of Anton Stralman, whose departure has coincided with a drastic drop in possession numbers. We’ve also talked about the impact losing Brian Boyle has had on the penalty kill and on faceoffs. Heck, we’ve even reminisced about Raphael Diaz.

But one key veteran has been quickly forgotten since his forced exit just days after the Stanley Cup Final.

The buyout of Brad Richards was a foregone and necessary conclusion for the Blueshirts, who were in desperate need of cap space and had one final chance to shed the remainder of his albatross contract without being penalized.

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Hartford terminates Kaberle’s PTO – Broadway bound? (Updated)

Update: Per Larry Brooks, the Rangers are not expected to make Kaberle an offer.

The Hartford Wolf Pack have terminated the PTO for defenseman Tomas Kaberle. Kaberle played two games for the Pack, putting up a pair of powerplay assists and a -3 rating in the two losses to Manchester (4-3 in overtime) and Bridgeport (6-1). With the PTO terminated, this means that the Rangers will either offer him a contract, or that the PTO has ended and the two sides will part ways. Andrew Gross thinks that the Rangers will offer him a contract.

Personally, I don’t believe Kaberle is the answer. He hasn’t been relevant in the NHL since the 2011-2012 season. This is a speed game now, and Kaberle won’t add anything to the blue line that Matt Hunwick or Mike Kostka can’t. With the Rangers at 49 contracts, signing Kaberle would put them at the maximum 50 contracts, and make trades that much more difficult.

How hard is regression going to hit Cam Talbot?

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

There was a time last season that Henrik Lundqvist was playing so poorly, and Cam Talbot was playing so well, that a very small but very vocal segment of the fan base was calling for a change at the number one spot. Imagine that. Crazy, right? But, it happened. Small sample sizes can do wacky things to people’s perceptions. Talbot had a phenomenal 2013-2014 season, but has struggled so far (relatively speaking) in the new campaign.

Last year, Talbot ended the season with a 1.64 GAA and a .941 save percentage in 21 games played. If he had put up those numbers over a starter’s workload, he would have run away with the Vezina. We all knew (hopefully) that these flawed metrics, although nice to see from our backup, were not reflective of his true talent level. In fairness, they aren’t reflective of anyone’s true talent level.

In 4 games so far this season, Talbot’s GAA has ballooned to 3.48 and his save percentage has slid to .880. Neither of those numbers are particularly pretty. I’ve seen comments on the Twitters and other social media about how hard regression is hitting Talbot, which naturally begs the question: what is the mean he is regressing to?

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The Rangers’ Marc Staal dilemma

Marc Staal's future could have a huge influence on the Rangers competitiveness.

Marc Staal’s future could have a huge influence on the Rangers competitiveness.

It’s amazing the difference one dominant performance can make. Prior to the Pens game I was ready to criticise Marc Staal pretty heavily, and all of a sudden he turns out his best performance of the year. However, the point of this post remains. For now.

This year, on a consistent basis, the Rangers have been poor in their own end. Games where the Rangers have been acceptable defensively (such as the Pens game, where the team played well – for the most part – in front of Henrik Lundqvist) have been the exception rather than the rule. Some of this can certainly be attributed to the defensive unit being blown up by injury and suspension but there have been two constants in the line-up in Marc Staal and Girardi.

While Girardi has been inconsistent he has rebounded to some extent. Marc Staal however has been playing at an unacceptable level given his salary expectations and the standards we have come to expect. Make no mistake, Staal has had a few good games this season and really was more like his usual self against the Pens, and he remains a player with tremendous skill and size, but the Rangers need Staal to be much better consistently (key word).

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Rangers have legit excuses for early struggles, but show they’re capable of much more

Few teams can win without their No. 1 C, No. 1 D and PPQB

When we look back on the season at the end of the year, there’s a good possibility that last weekend will represent its low point.

A blown lead against Toronto followed by another embarrassing performance at home against Edmonton seemed unacceptable over the last couple of days, but last night’s 5-0 drubbing of Pittsburgh was a good reminder that the Blueshirts are capable of much more.

Any team can dominate on any given night in the NHL, but only two can say they were in the Stanley Cup Final last year, so the Rangers’ best efforts carry a little more weight than a team like the Oilers.
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Fixing the fourth line

(Photo: Blueshirts United)

Photo: Blueshirts United

All season long, the Rangers have had some serious issues with the fourth line. It’s not really a surprise, since the Rangers have used nine different players on that line already. Nine. Tanner Glass, Dominic Moore, Jesper Fast, J.T. Miller, Ryan Malone, Chris Mueller, Lee Stempniak, Kevin Hayes, Anthony Duclair. Suffice it to say: That’s a lot of forwards used on a line that was a huge strength for the club last year.

Out of those nine, four are rookies, three are in the AHL, two are retreads that probably shouldn’t be on an NHL roster, one’s a possession anchor that shouldn’t be on a roster, and two more shouldn’t be on a fourth line (top-nine only). It’s a mess, but it’s a fixable mess. In fact, it’s easily fixable.

Step One: Enough with the retreads.

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Conor Allen showing John Moore’s spot is not guaranteed

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

When the Rangers blue line finally gets healthy, the assumption has always been that John Moore will be the LD on the third pairing. It’s tough to argue with that, as the one prospect who appears NHL ready is currently playing at the University of Minnesota (Brady Skjei). Conor Allen, in preseason, was seemingly beat out by Dylan McIlrath as the 7D (both were sent to the AHL for Matt Hunwick, since the kids need playing time). Moore’s spot appeared to be safe.

Allen, recalled due to the Moore suspension and the injury to Ryan McDonagh, looked steady in his two games this year. He’s not flashy by any stretch, but he reminds me of a right-handed Anton Stralman. If you recall, Stralman didn’t show up on the scoreboard, but he always made the smart, short, easy pass to move the puck out of the zone. It’s something that is greatly under appreciated because it is such a subtle play. Allen showed a lot of those qualities when I watched him.

Naturally I’m a bit of a nerd, so I took to the numbers to see if what I saw matches what was produced on the ice.

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New York Rangers defense: Just survive

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

Good news folks, Derek Stepan is almost ready to return for injury. Figured I may as well lead with that.

The six defensemen that started for the Rangers on opening night: Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Dan Boyle, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Klein, John Moore. Only the first two will dress tonight, and may be the only two that dress for the next four games. No matter what side of the fence you fall on regarding Girardi/Anton Stralman, or Staal, or Klein, or Moore, you recognize that this is a significant problem.

Boyle went down first with a broken hand two periods into the season. Then Moore was suspended for five games. Then over the weekend the club lost McDonagh for 4-6 weeks with a separated shoulder and Klein for at least one game with a foot contusion. Saying that this situation isn’t ideal is a drastic understatement.

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