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Around the League Update

Coming to a Garden near you...

Coming to a Garden near you…

We’re almost two weeks into the regular season, giving teams a light litmus test of where they stand against the league. It’s important to remember that it is still very, very early in the season, but 5 or 6 games gives coaches enough of an idea of which lines are working and which aren’t.

Here in Rangerland, we’ve spent a lot of time analyzing defensive woes and arguing over whether or not we should be worried. It’s easy to forget that there’s a whole league out there, even though there’s a team only 15 miles away from us. In the spirit of keeping our friends close and our enemies closer, we should take a look at what’s going on around the league.

So… what exactly is happening outside of the Garden? Read more »

Lineup Changes: Duclair odd man out with roster moves

Per Pat Leonard, the Rangers have new lines following three roster moves yesterday, and Anthony Duclair will be the odd man out, at least for tomorrow night’s game. The lines:

Mats Zuccarello-Derick Brassard-Martin St. Louis
Chris Kreider-Kevin Hayes-Rick Nash
Carl Hagelin-Dominic Moore-Lee Stempniak
Tanner Glass-Chris Mueller-Ryan Malone

It’s very early in the season, and Alain Vigneault also said that Duclair may not play every game to start the season. There is value in watching games from above to see how plays develop in the NHL and in AV’s systems. It’s one game, so there’s no reason to panic over Duclair sitting. The staff will make the best possible decision to ensure his growth isn’t stunted by rushing him.

Thoughts following Thursday night’s shootout win

Al Bello/Getty Images

Al Bello/Getty Images

Since we often preach patience and the long-view around here, I find it very difficult to identify specific narrative topics when the season is only five games old.  Many of our observations will normalize or end up a blip on the big picture radar.  Most sample sizes are too small, trends too tenuous and in the case of the Rangers, too injury dependent.  Once Stepan and Boyle return, we will start to see the true colors of this team, but until then, I feel like some random thoughts are more appropriate than digging into too much data or player performance numbers. I’ll be curious to see if your thoughts are consistent with mine during this time of upheaval…

  • Is it wrong that I was excited just to see that second win so things didn’t spiral out of control like last October?
  • Man, Lee Stempniak has been great. We all were fully on-board with the signing when it happened, but he has gotten off to a much better start than we could have reasonably expected.
  • Ryan McDonagh played over 30 minutes last night. In October. Loco.
  • Rick Nash is a monster. I had a feeling that the post-concussion symptoms were holding him back last season. He was horribly snake bitten in the playoffs, but has broken out again in a big way to start this year. Goals aside, he had made strong moves to the net, utilizing his size and reach with great results. If he can stay healthy, he will be an absolute force this season.

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Rangers recall Chris Mueller; return Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller

The New York Rangers have recalled forward Chris Mueller from the Hartford Wolf Pack, returning forwards Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller in the process. Miller and Fast have been healthy scratches for the past two games, so getting them playing time in the AHL is a good idea. Mueller had a strong camp, and Alain Vigneault probably figures he can get more out of him than he can Fast/Miller at this point of the season.

Personally, I think Fast was just fine in his two games, but clearly the coach wants him to work on some things. As for Miller, well I still think he’s best suited for the wing. Maybe he gets time there with the Pack.

Since Mueller is a center, this could mean the end of the Martin St. Louis at center experiment, especially since Kevin Hayes has looked quite comfortable there.

Blue line depth being exploited early on

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

This past offseason, the Rangers let Anton Stralman walk via free agency and a five-year, $4.5 million deal in Tampa Bay. They replaced him with Dan Boyle on a shorter term deal, two years at $4.5 million. While the move was hotly contested by many, and created a divide for the pro-Stralman and anti-Stralman debate, the fact is that Boyle was still a serviceable replacement, and someone who would certainly help the team on the powerplay.

But then, 40 minutes into the season, Boyle broke his hand. Mike Kostka and Matt Hunwick have been called upon to replace him in the lineup, paired with either Marc Staal or John Moore. For the first month of the season, the Rangers are replacing Stralman with the Kostka/Hunwick combination, and no matter which way you slice it, that was never part of the plan.

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Rangers right the ship against Carolina

Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

After three straight dismal games, the Rangers righted the ship with two big points against a pretty bad Carolina Hurricanes club. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t what we would like to see on a regular basis, but it was two points, and that’s all that matters. Henrik Lundqvist was very sharp, finally returning to form after his defense failed him in the three previous games. Hank stopped 29 and then all three in the shootout.

The lone Rangers goal came from crashing the net, as Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard combined for a double deflection to tie the game in the third period. Rick Nash also had a strong game, which has come as no surprise this season. Hopefully this is a win the team can build on.

On to the goals:

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Around the Farm: Halverson remains perfect

Brandon Halverson was the only prospect in action last night, as Ryan Mantha was scratched for Niagra. Halverson and the 7-0-0 Soo Greyhounds made it 8-0-0 as they squeaked by North Bay by a score of 5-4. Halverson stopped 29 of 33 shots.

  • OHL
    • Brandon Halverson (Soo Greyhounds, W 5-4): 33 shots, 29 saves

Game 5: Needing to beat a bad Carolina team


Courtesy of LoHud

It’s too early in the season to call a game a must win, but the Rangers could really use a dominant showing against the woeful Carolina Hurricanes tonight. The Canes are without brothers Staal, Jeff Skinner, and Andrej Sekera. Considering the team really wasn’t that good to begin with, missing four of their top players means these are two points the Rangers should grab.

I haven’t watched a Canes game since Bill Peters was hired as their head coach, so I don’t know much about what they do on the ice. However, they are missing four top guys, so it may even be tough to get a gauge on them tonight too. On the bright side, since Eric and Jordan are out, we may not be subjected to countless Staal’s are brothers references.

Rangers lineup:

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Thoughts after a three game losing streak


Courtesy of Getty Images

Chris did the heavy lifting today with his post this morning, covering for me while I figure out what I did to my wrist. Luckily, it’s my left wrist, so my social life will go –ahem– unaffected. I get to give you some musings and thoughts after a three game losing streak. Since each time I need to move my left wrist hurts, it’s going to be a short list. Sorry about that.

  • Is it Halloween yet? No? Ok then. No use panicking. This team was in much worse shape last year at this point, and they went to the Stanley Cup Finals. This year’s team has two major injuries to key players (Derek Stepan, Dan Boyle), and already has much better puck possession numbers than last year at this point in the season (small sample size). I’m not worried.
  • Speaking of those injuries, these were two guys the Rangers really couldn’t afford to lose. They were already thin at center, and team defense was downgraded this summer. With Boyle, the Rangers certainly didn’t count on replacing Anton Stralman with Mike Kostka or Matt Hunwick. That one probably hurt the most. At least the Rangers had Martin St. Louis, an incredibly smart player, to take over 1C temporarily.
  • Focusing on the defensive play of the entire team: I think the Isles game was the best example of how the Rangers can do the right things, but coverage failures (and yes, turnovers) can doom any team, even if they dominate puck possession.

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Chris Kreider providing the Rangers reason for optimism

Chris Kreider = monster

Chris Kreider = monster

Building on what Kevin talked about yesterday, not everything in Rangerland is a negative right now. Despite the inept goaltending currently found at the Garden and the sinking ship that is the Rangers defense, there are still reasons for optimism in New York. One of those reasons is Chris Kreider. If the Rangers had just a competent defense in week one we would be talking more about the good starts of Anthony Duclair and Lee Stempniak, the hot streak and return to prominence of Rick Nash but – in my opinion – above all, Chris Kreider’s emergence as an every game threat.

While still a little rough around the edges, Kreider has looked dominant at times. His one goal so far was a breakaway which he took extremely well, he has been hard on the puck all year, has been physically engaged while he’s also shown he’s willing to stick up for his teammates. Kreider has also impressed with a couple of great primary assists on goals for Nash and Derick Brassard showing that he’s not a one dimensional player and has been hungry for the puck on his stick. If he can maintain his start to the season he should also smash his career high for shots on goal with well over 200.

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