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Category: State of the Rangers

The impact of Ryan McDonagh’s return

Critically important. Ryan McDonagh. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Elsa/Getty Images

For the first time all season, the Rangers will dress a fully healthy squad. Captain Ryan McDonagh, injured since early this month with a separated shoulder, is set to return tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. His return helps balance out the lineup on special teams as well as at even strength, but it goes far beyond the decision of who sits.

Matt Hunwick will be the odd-man out eventually (although John Moore is out tonight), which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. What should be a surprise is how effective Hunwick was while replacing insert injured Rangers defenseman name here. You certainly have your own way of finishing that last sentence, but Hunwick has been an unsung hero for the Rangers and their ability to tread water while dealing with injuries all year.

With Hunwick out, McDonagh will skate next to Dan Girardi, as per usual. His presence should probably help Girardi get his game back to a level that we’ve come to expect*. Marc Staal and Dan Boyle will remain the second pairing, and Kevin Klein will stay with John Moore. Those pairings sound familiar, don’t they? It’s like we haven’t seen them since June. Oh wait, we haven’t.

*-Leaving this open-ended for a reason.

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The power play is beginning to feel the Dan Boyle effect

Dan Boyle has played with many superstars over the years, but he can actually keep up with them

Martin covered Boyle’s impact yesterday, but here’s a little more. It’s Thanksgiving week so forgive me for not rewriting this one.

Though contract length and roster construction played a part, the Rangers basically chose between two distinct skill sets when they elected not to re-sign Anton Stralman and inked Dan Boyle as his replacement in July.

The argument for Boyle was that he was the true offensive defenseman the team had long lacked and a stud power play quarterback. The argument for Stralman was that he was among the league’s best possession players and had emerged as New York’s best defender other than Ryan McDonagh.

While Boyle missed the first five weeks of the season with a broken wrist, the patchwork Rangers’ defense often looked like it might get lit up in beer league and the power play was as inept as always. Meanwhile, Stralman was racking up points at an unprecedented rate and was called “nothing short of sensational” by his new coach, Jon Cooper. Read more »

Dan Boyle’s return to the powerplay

dan-boyle

Boyle

It’s no secret the Rangers power play has been the subject of much criticism for seemingly the last decade and this season had been no different up until the return of Dan Boyle. The Rangers have been constantly, and unsuccessfully, looking for a man to run the point since the days of Brian Leetch and it seems as though they may have finally found someone more than competent to do so in Boyle.

In the past five games since the return of Boyle, the Rangers power play has looked much better and certainly more consistent. However the five games leading up to Boyle’s return shows that the Rangers power play was beginning to produce more shot attempts:

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Carl Hagelin’s strong season

Photo: Chris O'Meara/AP

Photo: Chris O’Meara/AP

The Rangers haven’t struggled to score goals this year, they’ve simply struggled to spread the goals around. Thanks in large part to Rick Nash and Marty St Louis, the Rangers have scored enough to stay in the playoff race while the defense and the goaltenders (up until recently) have struggled through injury, fluctuating form and suspensions.

One of the lesser discussed players this year has been Carl Hagelin. Hagelin scored against the Canadiens Sunday night and has been having a solid season despite bouncing around the line-up and playing very much in a depth role. Recently, he has been matched up with rookies Kevin Hayes and Anthony Duclair and still, Hagelin has delivered.

Hagelin has been a mainstay on the penalty kill unit, ranking second only to the equally underappreciated Dominic Moore in ice time amongst the forwards. He’s been a mainstay on a unit that is middle of the NHL pack largely only because of the injuries the PK has suffered (Stepan, McDonagh etc).

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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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