It’s a good day to be a Rangers fan. Two wins on the bounce, two four goal games produced by the Rangers and suddenly a goaltender who was boasting about a lack of challenge has started to look rattled. Let’s get into the musings
I don’t care who you are – the 80’s Oilers aside – no player or team should ever provide motivation for the opposition. Holtby’s comments and Ovechkin’s comments have both being countered by improved play on the ice by the Rangers. Adam Oates cannot be happy with the way the series has begun to swing.
Obvious thought of the day: Derek Stepan is going to be a very rich hockey player sooner rather than later.
Is Stepan the first of the home grown kids – talking ‘tweener contracts – where Sather really doesn’t have the same power as he usually has in regard to controlling costs? With Richards clearly in decline (despite the occasional production recently, Stepan is an absolutely critical Ranger long term given the way he is developing.
Derek Stepan has four game winners in his last nine goals. Please remember this young man is just twenty two.
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Thanks to LAR again for this.
Again big thanks to Loyal Anonymous Reader (LAR) for the above graphic, which shows the goal locations for each of Derek Stepan’s 18 goals this season. As you can tell from the picture, Stepan’s game is to get to the front of the net for deflections, rebounds, and otherwise dirty goals. He did this for 16 of his 18 goals, and I’d bet that only Ryan Callahan can match him in goals from the front of the net.
What is interesting to see is that all of his powerplay goals have come from in front of the net, despite the fact that he has seen time on the off-wing and on the point. It’s one of those signs that shows how effective he is in front with his hands. Cally will screen the goalie and collect rebounds, but Stepan adds a great ability to deflect pucks on net. In a theoretical 1-3-1, you’d want Cally in front for the dirty work and Stepan as the high slot man for deflections and passes.
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AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
The Rangers have gotten to know the Washington Capitals quite well in recent seasons, beyond the regular season. It goes without saying that there’s not likely to be many surprises facing either side entering this series, so what do the Rangers need to do to steal game one away and take away home ice advantage? Let’s look at the keys to victory for your New York Rangers.
This is the most obvious – and most crucial – aspect of the entire series, as it always is when taking on the Capitals. Without Marc Staal, who always does a great job defending Ovechkin, things will be different. Defending who is arguably the best player right now in the NHL will be done by committee.
The keys will be keeping Ovechkin to the outside, allowing Lundqvist to see the shot and not allow Ovechkin to enter the zone at speed as often as possible. Reports suggest Tortorella will split up McDonagh and Girardi to help negate Ovechkin. This will be key as the Caps look for matchup advantages throughout the series.
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Scott Levy/Getty Images
Sorry again about no goal breakdown, but the Rangers picked up two big points against the Devils today, winning by a score of 4-0. Hank bagged his second shutout of the season and Rick Nash enjoyed a dominating performance with two goals. There were contributions from all over the ice, including two point performances from Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Derek Stepan. The win gives the Blueshirts 56 points, 22 regulation wins and a temporary hold on the 6th seed in the East. I thought I’d use this post as an open thread for everyone to talk about the game, plus lay out the possible playoff matchup scenarios the Rangers could find themselves in.
6th Seed: Since the Islanders are already done, it comes down to the Ottawa Senators to change the seeding. The Sens have two remaining games and 54 points. For the Rangers to stay in 6th place, the Sens would need to lose at least one game in regulation or lose both in OT/shootout. In that case, The Sens would either finish with less or the same amount of points as the Rangers, and the Rangers would hold the tiebreaker on regulation victories. Read more »
Gerry Broome/Associated Press
It’s always interesting looking at the penalty statistics each season, and this year is no different. PIMs are a bit misleading, as there’s no real difference between someone who takes undisciplined stick penalties and some heat of the moment roughing/fighting penalties. Ok, fights are easily tracked, but the minor penalties aren’t in the PIMs department.
When looking at the raw penalties taken, three Rangers really jump at you. The first is Taylor Pyatt, who has struggled until recently. Pyatt has played in all 47 games up to this point, and has taken just two minor penalties. TWO! That’s incredible. Considering how streaky and inconsistent Pyatt has been all year, only three guys who have played at least 40 games have taken less penalties.
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Reasons for optimism up front in New York
The quality of opposition hasn’t been the toughest in the past few games but deadline day acquisitions, the return to form of several players and recently found consistency among the forward ranks has seen the Rangers production up front really take off in recent games. All this bodes well for a trip to the playoffs and, perhaps most promisingly, beyond this season.
Whether the Rangers retain a Ryane Clowe, re-sign Mats Zuccarello or push through a JT Miller or Chris Kreider remains to be seen but the way some of the younger forwards have developed this season means the forward group’s well documented struggles this year may have been overblown. Kids such as Stepan and Hagelin have, for the most part produced while the team has changed on the fly.
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The Rangers played one of their most complete games of the season as they eliminated the Devils from postseason contention, winning 4-1. The Rangers were the better team throughout led once again by Callahan and Stepan offensively with Henrik Lundqvist again in strong form in net. The Rangers are peaking at the right time. You have to enjoy the Devils mocks from the crowd toward the end. That feels good. So does seeing their head coach get ejected. This was a satisfying win for the Rangers. On to the goal breakdown.
Rangers 1-0; Ryan Callahan
The Rangers struck early; after getting in deep and generating pressure along the boards the puck caroms off the boards to Callahan who, stationed to the right of the Devils goal caught Brodeur off guard to bank it off his right skate in to the net. The goal was basically a result of immediate puck pressure and a strange bounce that Callahan was able to take advantage of.
Rangers 2-0; Derek Stepan
Traffic + puck possession = goals. The Rangers cycled the puck down low effectively then moved the puck to the blueline where it eventually came to Ryan McDonagh. As McDonagh wound up for a shot, two Rangers (Clowe and Stepan) went toward the net and created a heap of traffic in front of Brodeur. McDonagh’s shot from the right point appears to take a deflection in front from Stepan as Brodeur could see very little as the puck found its way in.
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Brassard has a great chance to re-establish himself with the Rangers
With every additional pass like the perfect defense splitter that set up Dan Girardi’s huge goal against the Islanders, Derick Brassard is positioning himself to be the Rangers second option at center beyond this season. The ramifications from each additional impressive Brassard display from here on in are huge. His form makes Brad Richards that much more of a luxury, makes Richards’ future that much more tenuous and it makes the Rangers summer that much more of a decision filled affair.
While in Columbus, Brassard flashed glimpses of skill but with careful analysis it was actually more than that. Like Rick Nash, Brassard was surrounded for the most part by subpar talent, with defensive coaches and yet was still able to put together some productive campaigns. His problems in Columbus were his ability to stay healthy and the expectations that go with being a top ten draft pick. If Brassard can stay healthy the ‘Marian Gaborik trade’ could be a rare hockey trade that becomes a win-win.
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Stepan for the Steven McDonald?
Unless your name is Ryan Callahan, then you likely haven’t even come close to winning the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award. Cally has won three of the past four awards, and will certainly be in contention this year for his second in a row and four in the past five years. But, there is a growing sentiment that Derek Stepan should garner most of the attention this year, and this isn’t without cause.
Stepan has been unreal this year, better than anyone could have imagined. Currently second on the team in scoring (14-20-34 in 40 games), Stepan is on a six game point scoring streak, and has 24 points since the start of March (21 games). The offense is impressive and a true testament to Stepan’s skill, but it’s on the other side of the puck where he has made the most improvement.
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Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News
Up front, the Rangers will have a lot of moving parts this summer beyond their top six. With Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan certainties to be retained (a question of how much rather than if) and the club focused on developing the young players such as Chris Kreider and JT Miller, there’s not a lot of space on the roster. With the club committed, at least financially, to Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, Brian Boyle, Arron Asham, and Taylor Pyatt there’s maybe no space for the likes of Mats Zuccarello, no matter how he plays this year out.
The natural assumption is that the Rangers will trade guys to make room for others. But the problem with this assumption is that the cap is coming down to $64.3 million, and assuming the Rangers can move a now expendable guy such as Taylor Pyatt (and his $1.55 million cap hit) is a dangerous assumption. There’s also no guarantees the club can move a Boyle or a Pyatt should they choose to. Now, do the math. That’s ten players listed without considering Ryane Clowe, Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Darroll Powe. That’s also not considering any players from the Whale, CHL, Europe, NCAA, or free agency. Log Jam folks.
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