Archive for State of the Rangers
The wait is over: the New York Rangers open their regular season tonight against the rival Islanders at home, in what is sure to be a night to remember. The World Cup of Hockey and the long preseason were nice, but they’re nothing compared to the real thing. While we don’t have much to go on so far, there’s still enough out there to draw some conclusions about how these two teams match up.
With the Rangers opening at home for the first time since 2007, the team is sure to be motivated and hyped up for tonight’s matchup. Expect the Islanders to come in just as motivated to play spoiler to their cross-town rivals and start the season off with a win. Without further adieu, here’s your 2016 regular season opening night preview.
The Rangers retooled their forward corps this offseason, bringing in a bevy of fast, skilled young forwards. Given the abundance of talent in the group the Rangers now have the opportunity to roll four balanced lines, each one of them capable of scoring or playing in the defensive end.
I keep reading articles from experts and insiders (oh how I hate the term insiders) that the Rangers need to tear it down and rebuild. How their reality is mediocrity not contention and that this organisation has little to be optimistic about. Pardon me for being a tad biased but the tear it down narrative is lazy journalism. Apparently the tear it down method is the correct path to restocking an organisation. I disagree. I also think the Rangers are nowhere near needing this radical approach.
If Jimmy Vesey had joined a Canadian franchise we’d be hearing Canadian insiders project a Calder worthy campaign. If Pavel Buchnevich was anywhere but New York I think we’d be hearing a little more of the Tarasenko and Kuznetzov comparisons too. It’s fashionable to think pessimistically about the Rangers – I guess this is what comes from being a deep pocketed, occasionally recklessly run franchise.
The Rangers spent the entire offseason retooling the forwards with an emphasis on speed, skill, puck possession, and penalty killing ability. The penalty kill will also get a boost with a healthy Rick Nash back in the lineup. However retooling the PK forwards isn’t enough to solve the problem.
The concern with the Rangers was two-fold:
- Aging defensemen that were always out of position or unable to stick their man.
- A system that didn’t play to the strengths of the major minute eaters on the penalty kill.
The Rangers are going to score a million goals this year
Yes, I know someone needs to get the forwards the puck and there’s still not a clear solution to that conundrum. But the sheer amount of talent up front is pretty impressive. Both Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey look prepared to contribute right out of the gate, and Brandon Pirri has showcased a rare ability to put the puck during the net in the preseason. On top of that, Mika Zibanejad appears capable of picking up right where Derick Brassard left off and then some. The Rangers have more than enough forwards to fill three scoring lines, and even the anticipated checking line should have a much better chance of chipping in offensively than in years past.
New York might have found a power play quarterback
Rangers fans were buzzing on Tuesday night. It wasn’t just because hockey was back, or that the Chris Kreider-Mika-Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich line seemed to be clicking either. It was watching Adam Clendening’s performance. Clendening stole the show, as his poise with the puck and ability to make smart passes to start the breakout both at even strength and on the powerplay impressed many.
It impressed so much that Dylan McIlrath seemed like an afterthought. McIlrath didn’t have a bad game either, scoring a goal that demonstrated how far his skating has come. He wasn’t perfect, and neither was Clendening, but after one game it seems like Clendening is now the front runner for the last spot on the blue line over McIlrath.
But does it have to be that way? Why can’t we have both?
The mandate for Jeff Gorton this offseason was clear: retool the Blueshirts while extending the window to win the Stanley Cup. Though many of us believe that Gorton’s troops will struggle to reach that goal with the defense as currently assembled, he has certainly begun executing a significant makeover.
Up front, Gorton has stockpiled a young group of forwards that stacks up with any in the league. New York will have one of the NHL’s youngest rosters this season with room to grow for many key players still 25 years old or younger including Chris Kreider, Brandon Pirri, Kevin Hayes, Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast, J.T. Miller, Mika Zibanejad, Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich – not to mention 26-year-old first-line center Derek Stepan.
The Rangers did a lot to improve this offseason. They completely retooled the bottom-six forwards and the penalty kill, and it appears they used some form of advanced statistical analysis in their decision making. While it appears the Rangers are set to have a better showing from their forwards, the defense remained largely untouched.
As it stands today, the Rangers will have substituted Brady Skjei for Keith Yandle and Dylan McIlrath/Nick Holden for Dan Boyle. Based off Alain Vigneault’s previous history, we are looking at these defensive pairs:
For the first time since 2004, the World Cup of Hockey has returned. This has been quite the polarizing event since it was announced. Many feel it is simply a cash grab by the NHL, risking injury prior to the regular season. Others are delighted that we have an early return for hockey and some interesting international competition between Olympic years (the NHL’s continued participation is a topic for a whole different post). Either way, we will see the puck drop a few weeks early this season.
Naturally, there has been quite a bit of hand wringing over roster decisions; Team USA’s archaic, backwater team building philosophy chief among them. This morning, though, I am here to talk about the goaltending for each team. In case you have been actively avoiding the tournament and its nuances, quick primer: there are eight teams competing, six of which are familiar. USA, Canada, Sweden, Russia, Finland and the Czech Republic are properly represented. The final two teams are Team North America, comprised of American and Canadian players, twenty-three years of age or younger, and Team Europe, which catches all European players not rostered with one of the other countries.
The 2017 season is right around the corner, and as the World Cup of Hockey begins we will finally have something new to talk about in regards to hockey. This comes right on time as I am absolutely drained of any ideas after this one for the near future.
While many of us are certainly intrigued at how the forward depth will shape up for the New York Rangers post training camp, many more fans are eager to see what move GM Jeff Gorton may have in play to fix up the defense. It has been a long anticipated move, combining the rumors on Kevin Shattenkirk, the “guaranteed” Rick Nash trade, young defensemen remaining unsigned, and that the Rangers seem to do their business in the shadows with moves nobody sees coming (I love you Brassard, stay golden). In any case, there are a lot of factors surrounding the Rangers, but sometimes there are management and advisory roles that need to be filled as well.
Welcome to the final edition of this year’s Top 30 goaltenders. We’ve been through twenty of the top keepers in all the land over the last few weeks, but here is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Just in case anyone missed the first two entries, they can be found here and here. The first one covers all the introductory info and criteria, so make sure to check that out if you haven’t already. Get your tar, feathers and NHL Network/ESPN/TSN Top 10 lists ready to waive in my face….here are my Top 10…