Archive for Chris Kreider

Anyone watching the Rangers closely since preseason will have seen Kevin Hayes visibly grow and learn on the job. Considered an outside bet to make the Rangers opening night roster, on the back foot because he missed a few games through injury and starting in a position he wasn’t accustomed to playing, despite all this Hayes has done a wonderful job the past six months.

Putting his faceoff inadequacies to one side, Hayes has improved immeasurably. His decision making has become faster and more instinctive while his playmaking and passing have been particularly evident recently. What’s more, the flashes of skill he showed early in the season have been far more frequent recently as Hayes has become a consistent threat in the offensive zone. There have been games recently (encapsulated by the Avalanche victory) where Hayes’ line has been the difference for the Rangers, that’s how far Hayes has come.

Hayes has flashed Rick Nash ability driving to the net and is on course for a very acceptable and productive rookie season as a third line pivot. Sitting eighth in rookie scoring; only one rookie from the top twenty scorers has had less ice time per game highlighting how effective Hayes has been offensively. If Hayes can improve his faceoff effectiveness and shoot a little more he could have a very strong second half.

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Henrik Lundqvist’s injury may have you feeling otherwise, but the Rangers remain in excellent shape to make the postseason. With an eight-point cushion over ninth-place Florida, securing a wild card berth shouldn’t be difficult even if overtaking the Penguins and Islanders for the Metro Division title may now be unrealistic.

Of course the team’s playoff hopes are pinned to Lundqvist, but there’s reason to believe the best is still ahead for the 2014-2015 Blueshirts – and it’s not because they’re sure to add an impact player by the trade deadline.

When you stop to think about it, how many players are really having standout seasons? Rick Nash, obviously. Kevin Klein has certainly exceeded expectations. Derek Stepan has been a point-per-game player when healthy. And Kevin Hayes has been a pleasant surprise as a rookie. Read More→

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The Rangers have had a strong year to date – even as we conveniently forget Tuesday’s defeat – but entering the second half of the season find themselves scrapping for the final seed in the Metropolitan division and stuck behind the Islanders and Penguins as they approach February. The Rangers can improve; something that bodes well for the rest of the season. Here are four players that have plenty more to give.

Ryan McDonagh

The Rangers captain missed a chunk of the season through injury and since being back has had dominant games as well as games where he’s been inconsistent, particularly defensively. McDonagh has been streaky rather than his consistent self. Before the All Star break McDonagh had a seven game pointless streak and has scored his points in bunches (including 4 points in one 3 game spell and 6 points in a 6 game spell).

It’s not all about numbers; McDonagh can improve in his own zone as well, by being better positionally while also cutting down on the turnovers. Against the Isles on Tuesday, McDonagh again wasn’t exactly stellar but he needs to be for his team to succeed. If McDonagh gets back to his consistent, elite self it’ll go a long way in helping the Rangers catch the Pens and Isles in the standings.

Chris Kreider

The good news is that Kreider was coming on very strong before the All Star break. The bad news is that he was making up for what has been a very stop-start season so far, individually speaking. Kreider has the overall package to take over games with his size, speed and willingness to crash the net and play physically. Kreider had six points in his last six games before the break and has three game winners in his last nine games showing his increasing ability to be the difference maker the Rangers hoped they’d found in Kreider.

To be successful, the Rangers need Rick Nash to continue his All Star ways but if Kreider can help Nash produce and begin to develop the consistency that has so far eluded his game the Rangers will have two physically dominant power forwards that could help create match-up nightmares for the opposition.

Dan Boyle

Another player hit by the injury bug, Dan Boyle has flashed his ability and shown, in patches, why the Rangers went out and committed to a 38 year old no longer wanted by his former employers. As expected, most of Boyle’s damage has come with the extra man (7 of 9 points on the powerplay) but he needs to produce more, stay healthy and help the Rangers decide games with a legitimate and consistent powerplay. As Dave discussed earlier this week, the Rangers powerplay has been much improved this season and Dan Boyle will be a major part of that unit so long as he’s healthy.

JT Miller

(this was mostly written before the Isles loss….) Has Miller finally found his feet in the NHL? Has he earned the full trust of Alain Vigneault? What’s Millers actual NHL upside? There are a lot of questions confronting JT Miller as he enters the second half of the season. Miller’s talent is undeniable; he’s already centred the Rangers’ second powerplay unit and has already popped up with some big goals for the Rangers this season.

However, like others on this list, Miller hasn’t been consistent enough, has gone long stretches without producing and on top of that still hasn’t earned Alain Vigneault’s complete trust. It appears that Miller is again a scratch for tonight’s game against the speedy Canadiens. Miller is clearly struggling to convince Vigneault of his worth. Something to consider as the club approach the trade deadline.

A big part of any success the Rangers have this season will be because of their depth stepping up and the kids (including Miller, Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast) on the roster will be a big part of that. We saw the Rangers lose to the Isles on Tuesday in part because the Islanders’ bottom six outplayed their Rangers counterparts. It’s a legitimate concern for Alain Vigneault. If Miller can establish himself over the next 37 regular season games it will likely mean the Rangers have finally developed a consistent third line and Miller will have banished any lingering doubts about his long term Rangers future. He’s clearly capable of more.

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Midseason grades: the top six forwards

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It’s the half way point in the season and our collective egos are such that we like to hand out some mid-season grades to your New York Rangers. Dave got the ball rolling with the goaltending and coaching grades and I have been tasked with the top six forwards so let’s jump on in.

Rick Nash: 40GP 26G 15A 41Pts +17 4 GWG 4 PPG 3SHG

There really is only one player to start with and that’s the NHL’s leading goal scorer. Nash has had a first half to dream of. He’s been healthy, he’s been dominant at both ends of the ice, he’s been consistent (including a point streak of 11 games), he’s been clutch and he’s been everything you could ask for in a potential Hart Trophy candidate. That’s the level Nash has been at – Hart Trophy level.

Club bias aside I – and many others – think Nash could reasonably be in the mix for four major pieces of hardware at the end of the season: Hart (MVP), Selke (defensive forward), Ted Lindsay award (players MVP) and the Richard trophy (top goal scorer). Having a breath taking year.

Grade: A+

Derek Stepan: 28GP 6G 21A 27pts +9 8 PPP 4 SHP

Stepan is a difficult one to grade. He still hasn’t developed in the faceoff circle (something that  is holding him back from being a legitimate top line center), and he needs to use his shot more; he passes up on far too many quality shooting opportunities, but as a playmaker Stepan has elevated his game to another level this year.

Stepan’s passing and vision are routinely excellent and he didn’t show much rust coming back from his injury. Averaging almost a point per game, Stepan has shown real consistency in his play as a pass first center while he has made a real difference on both special teams units. Wherever Stepan is, he usually has made a positive difference. If he would shoot a little more he would be even more dangerous.

Grade B+

Marty St Louis: 40GP 14G 18A 32pts 12PPP

St Louis is no longer the top line, 100 point winger he once was however he’s still proving he can be a force on the ice and has shown that he’s a leader on this relatively young Rangers team. St Louis has been streaky this year and has had games where he has been completely invisible, something that the Rangers have been able to tolerate because they’ve received fairly balanced scoring this year. However, despite the occasional goal scoring drought and playing in Nash’s shadow, St Louis is still closing in on another 60+ point season which for a player approaching his 40th birthday is hugely impressive.

St Louis is still lethal on the powerplay, he still commands the attention of the opposition and he is still capable of scoring in bunches something that only really he and Nash can do on this Ranger team. St Louis has been good. Hopefully his best will come at the end of the year.

Grade B

Chris Kreider: 38GP 8G 12A 20pts +9 83Hits

If these grades were based on the last week or two, Kreider’s would be more positive but they’re not. Kreider has endured an inconsistent, frustrating and difficult year and yet he still has a chance to set a career high in goals, assists and points with a solid second half. Perhaps the expectations were too high, but Kreider has struggled in his own end, has endured long slumps, has played recklessly and has been somewhat of a turnover machine. With that all said we’ve seen Kreider dominate teams when he’s on his game, he’s physically imposing and offers the Rangers (and the opposition) something only Rick Nash can do on this team. If Kreider has a strong second half – assuming Nash and St Louis are still firing – it would likely mean the Rangers are flying through the schedule.

Grade C

Derick Brassard: 38GP 11G 22A 33pts 14 PPP

Brassard has finally developed a level of consistency that does his talent justice (although I haven’t yet forgiven him for his horrendous follow up miss against the Isles). While he has undoubtedly been the beneficiary of Rick Nash’s return to prominence he has also helped Nash do what he has done. Brassard has shown an incredible array of passing, creativity perhaps only rivalled by Mats Zuccarello and has been a powerplay monster with 14 points with the extra man – tops on the Rangers.

Brassard has been much like Stepan, the owner of a wicked shot that he should use more. This season we’ve started to see him do just that – shoot – and no shock, he’s begun to rack up the points. Brassard is on course to smash his career highs in all major categories and is proving Glen Sather’s faith in him to be a smart investment. Brassard has been dynamic, a bargain at 5m, and has fully established himself as a top six center, and on a contending team no less.

Grade A

Mats Zuccarello: 38GP 7G 15A 22pts +11

Zuccarello has been inconsistent this year but even during spells where he wasn’t producing he has almost never been found lacking in effort. I still struggle to decide whether Zuccarello is a great third line winger or worthy of a permanent top six spot. At times he has struggled to follow up on his break out year of 2013-14 but still, has been one of the Rangers more dangerous players.

Zuccarello has made minimal impact on special teams but his production at even strength has been relatively consistent; he may be the victim of others succeeding on the PP in his place. Zuccarello is similar in one way to Kreider; if coach Vigneault can generate some consistency from him then the Rangers would be in an envious position.

You see Zuccarello’s talent, his on ice vision and hustle and you can’t help wanting more even expecting more out of him, which perhaps is somewhat unfair. With a strong second half there’s still an outside change Zuccarello can flirt with a second 50 point season. Not bad for an undrafted undersized Norwegian.

Grade B-

The most exciting part of the top six’ performances thus far is that there appears room for improvement. Kreider, Zuccarello and St Louis all have had difficult times this season although every member of the top six have played well at least in spurts. If the Rangers can have their top two lines all firing at the same time, there’s very excit

Categories : Forwards
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Thoughts heading into 2015

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Welcome to 2015, BSB faithful. 2014 is now behind us, which is a little weird, to be honest. It was a pretty interesting year, all told. We got a Stanley Cup Final run, a traded Captain, Stadium Series Games, troublesome contract negotiations and much more. But, it’s now ancient history, so let’s talk about some of the topics burning in the New Year…

  • Obviously non-Rangers related, but is it just me, or has the Winter Classic jumped the shark? Sure, it’s still interesting, and playing hockey outdoors will always be awesome, but the whole thing was just “blah” this year. Maybe it’s the rotating hosting of Bettman’s favorite teams. Or Pierre Maguire’s obnoxious voice. Or the fact we didn’t get a 24/7 because no one knows what EPIX is.
  • Back to Rangerland. Oh, look Tanner Glass sits and the Rangers get back to winning. I’m kidding, the whole thing has gotten a little out of hand. We all know Tanner Glass is god awful at the occupation he makes over a million dollars a year at. Yet he continues to play, and it doesn’t make that much of a difference. Until it does, against good teams, in the playoffs. Figure it out, AV.
  • I will be very interested to see how Sather (or his successor?) handles the long term construction of the blue line. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi are the only two players locked in long-term, and it seems with every game that Marc Staal is inching toward the door. Kevin Klein is around for the mid-term, but not a cornerstone piece. Dan Boyle likely won’t be here beyond next season. Matt Hunwick isn’t a long-term solution. Would have been nice if John Moore turned that smooth skating and size into more useful hockey skills.
  • The forwards are in a slightly different boat with a glut of talent on the wings and very little depth up the middle. At some point, the front office needs to turn that strength into assets that are needed, but there really is not much available on the market. High-end centers are the league’s most valuable commodity, and while Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan have been very serviceable in the Top-6, this team could really use a true 1C. Something tells me Jim Nill is too smart to give away Tyler Seguin.
  • Henrik Lundqvist has played much better lately. He is still prone to the odd soft goal or two, but I feel like if we traded that goal every couple games for one of the absurd saves he makes going in, no one would be complaining. No one likes soft goals, but he hasn’t allowed them in situations which cost the team games.
  • Wouldn’t it be nice if this actually got Chris Kreider going?
  • Rick Nash is still a monster. It had to be said.
  • Don’t you love how these west coast games conspire to throw a wrench into the schedule? Not only does it suck having to stay up for them, you get a string of non-conference games against tough opponents. We should be getting the opportunity to improve our playoff positioning with matchups against the Isles, Caps and Penguins right now.  But nope, here come the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.
  • I’m not going to completely rip off Chris’s setup here and throw a bunch of questions out, but there are a few things I’m curious about how the community feels:
    • Do you think this team as constructed can make another run?
    • With that in mind, trade deadline wish list?
    • Do you think Chris Kreider is more valuable long-term on the roster or as a trade asset?
    • What would be your minimum required asset to rid the team of Girardi’s contract?
    • What would you look for in a potential Marc Staal trade?
    • And finally, the question bomb: if you could flip Henrik Lundqvist (and his contract) for John Gibson, would you do it?
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The New York Rangers have been a bit lucky of late. They hit a nice patch in the schedule against bad teams and took advantage. They have been carried primarily by Rick Nash, and to a lesser extent by Martin St. Louis, Derek Stepan, and Derick Brassard. Mats Zuccarello has finally started to turn up his game and is becoming that scoring machine we saw last year. The last item that remains is getting Chris Kreider going, and that is no easy task.

Kreider’s stats of 5-10-15 in 32 games (38 point pace) this season are a far cry from his 17-20-37 in 66 games last year (45 point pace). Since November 1, Kreider has just three goals and six assists. Just two of those points –both goals– have come on the powerplay. For a top-six forward, that’s worse than a slump. That’s bordering on a terrible first half for a kid that was supposed to take a step forward this season.

Kreider is shooting at the same rate this season, with 2 SOG per game. Looking at his even strength SH% only, he is down from 10.58% last year to a ming-bogglingly bad 3.92% this year. That’s some terrible luck. It will regress back to about 9%, meaning Kreider is due for some sort of hot streak in the near future. That is certainly one culprit.

Another culprit: Kreider’s puck possession is way down this year. Last season, Kreider spent the majority of his time with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, putting up an impressive 55.2% CF. That number breaks down to approximately 55.5% with Stepan and Nash, and about 52% when a part from the pair (rough estimates, but you see the picture I’m painting here).

This year, Kreider has again spent time with Stepan, but his RW is Martin St. Louis. He’s above the break-even line at 51% CF, but that’s still a 4% drop off from last season, which is significant. Things get more interesting when you look at Stepan’s effect on Kreider, which is amazingly bad. We are victims of small sample size here, but Kreider and Stepan together have a subpar 48% CF when on the ice together. When Kreider is apart, his numbers jump to 53.8%, which is more in line with what we expect from Kreider. Stepan when away from Kreider: 36.3% CF. That’s horrible.

*-I’m focusing on Stepan here because the drop from Nash to MSL isn’t significant enough to cause this much of a scoring drought for Kreider.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming Kreider’s slump on Stepan, but it could certainly be a contributing factor. Stepan is a guy that can carry his teammates and drive play, Kreider appears to need that driving force on his line to be a big time producer. The latter part of that sentence is something we’ve seen over the past few seasons. It’s not a bad thing, it’s recognizing that Kreider is an amazing talent that needs a center to get him the puck. I’m just theorizing here though.

It’s only been 34 games, so we are dealing with small sample sizes. That said, Kreider won’t continue shooting a paltry 3.92% at even strength, and Stepan won’t continue being a possession dumpster fire. Kreider’s start is a big cause for concern, but the numbers say his bad luck won’t continue.

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Three Rangers with a lot to prove

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Heading into the second half of the season, the Rangers are of course riding the momentum of some impressive recent form but not all Rangers have played up to expectations this season, nor has every player shown the consistency that was expected of them. With that said, here are three key players that have a lot to prove and a lot to play for, as each game becomes increasingly important from here on in.

Mats Zuccarello

Right now, things seem rosy for the little Norwegian, and he has indeed been much better of late with eight points in his last seven games but more importantly, he’s been a consistent creative spark – much like last year. However, thanks to last year, more is expected from Zuccarello and looking at his season to date as a whole, he hasn’t delivered enough. Having led the Rangers in scoring last year with 59 points, Zuccarello’s production is well down with just 18 points to date.

With Alain Vigneault sending out more consistent lines thanks to better health up front, Zuccarello should benefit from that stability. Zuccarello has a lot on the line – he’s playing to justify his hefty one year raise but more importantly he’s playing for his long term future. If Zuccarello can show the type of consistency from last year was no one year fluke, the Rangers will be much more dangerous (and successful) for it.

Chris Kreider

Kreider has been consistent; consistently underwhelming. The talented American winger has a lot of upside and is trying to live up to pretty significant expectations. His development (or lack of it) will significantly influence the direction of the organisation given the lack of high end draft picks and skilled forward talent in the organisation following several asset stripping trades. That said, Kreider’s importance and future in the organisation is also influenced by a handful of other prospects. Although very different players, if Anthony Duclair, Pavel Buchnevich and (of most relevance) Kevin Hayes develop into productive NHL players Kreider’s long term future may be elsewhere if he cannot develop into the player he’s expected to become.

Last year, his first full year in New York, Kreider scored 17 goals, 37 points and as the year grew on, displayed consistency and a physical presence that suggested he would be a star and an important Ranger for a long time. So far, it hasn’t happened. With 5 goals and 15 points (and zero production on the powerplay) Kreider is an afterthought on a club that’s looking for their young players to step up. Kreider needs to cut down on the careless penalties, finish his chances and develop some consistency. He’s proven he can take over games when he’s at his best and the Rangers would love nothing more than to spread the wealth up front and have to rely less on Rick Nash.

Dan Boyle

Dave has discussed the Rangers choosing Boyle over retaining Anton Stralman a lot. It’s something that certainly creates debate. Long term, you would imagine Stralman would have been the wiser choice but the Rangers were looking for Boyle to address a glaring need when they chose the veteran puck mover over the younger (and popular) Swede. So far, Boyle hasn’t helped the powerplay as hoped. He has hardly been a feature player given all the time he has missed but against the Capitals just before the Christmas break we saw a small glimpse of what Boyle can do on the powerplay.

A confident puck mover and a veteran with strong hockey smarts, Boyle’s presence and production are more important as the year goes on. He has the opportunity to make his indifferent start forgotten. A player such as Boyle could be a difference maker in the playoffs where goals become scarcer and when powerplay production can be the difference between going deep in the playoffs or booking tee times on the golf course. If Boyle stays healthy and makes an impact in the second half of the year – but especially in the playoffs – all will be forgiven and the clamour for Stralman will lessen. If he continues to struggle then fans will accuse Glen Sather of another failed foray into free agency. Boyle will be closely watched as the Rangers playoff push gathers pace.

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Streaky Kreider in midst of a slump

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Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

In case you missed it yesterday, Chris Kreider skated on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast, signaling that the winger’s continued lack of production is starting to catch the coaching staff’s ire. Kreider is certainly having an off-year thus far, with just 13 points (4-9-13) through 24 games. While that isn’t too far off his pace last year (13-20-37 in 66 games), the issue is a bit beyond his point pace.

Kreider hasn’t scored in 11 games, and has just 3 assists in that span. Considering his top-six minutes, primarily with Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis, that’s a pretty bad slump. Kreider is shooting about 3% below his career average at the moment, with no goals on his last 19 shots.

The good news is that Kreider is still on the positive side of the puck possession arrow (50.8% CF), but that is in 56% offensive zone starts. His QoT is in the top-six on the team in terms of ice time, which is expected. However, Kreider is tops on the team in terms of linemate CF% at 52.6%.

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Kreider returns to practice

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Chris Kreider, who missed Monday’s win over Pittsburgh with neck spasms, was back at practice today, per the team Twitter. Kreider developed the spasms after colliding with Carl Hagelin at practice on Sunday. The team worked on the powerplay, with some new units:

PP1: Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan, Dan Boyle
PP2: J.T. Miller, Lee Stempniak, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi

This suggests that both Miller and Stempniak will be in the lineup over the weekend. That means Jesper Fast will likely be the healthy scratch.

Categories : Injuries
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Should the Rangers drop Chris Kreider?

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"Defense? What's that?..." (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

“Defense? What’s that?…” (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(This post was written before the doubts about  Kreider’s availability for tonight were released. But… the point of the post remains.) The arguments for keeping Chris Kreider in the line-up and hopefully riding out his ‘growing pains’ are obvious. Size, speed, a wicked shot and that the team wide lack of size would be further exaggerated without him in the line-up. That all said, Kreider has obviously hit a brick wall this season. His production has dried up which means his defensive miscues and poor decision making are no longer being covered up.

In the long term Kreider remains a key part of the Rangers future, although legitimate concerns are starting to be raised about whether his iffy decision making ability and his defensive awareness will hold him back from becoming a top tier power forward. Even as recently as the start of this season, Kreider looked on his way to taking the next step but his production to start the year was clearly masking the errors that continue to punctuate his overall game.

In the short term, the Rangers could and perhaps should look elsewhere for an injection of offense and defensive accountability. Should Anthony Duclair be back in the line-up? Equally dangerous with his skating ability, Duclair is certainly no worse in his own end than Kreider and has looked dangerous in the offensive zone even without the goals to show for it. Duclair is however, just one option.

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