Photo by Avi Gerver, ©Madison Square Garden, L.P.
The Rangers took three of four points from the apparently almighty Penguins this week. Both games, off the back of roster re-shaping trade deadline deals, showed us a lot about how the Rangers should look for the remainder of the season.
The 2-1 shootout defeat Friday night in Pittsburgh might see some fans be disheartened about a club that scored just one goal (again), but what is a somewhat valid concern is outweighed by several positives. Let’s take a look at why the Rangers still have a chance this season;
The new guys: the new additions – led by Ryane Clowe – have brought depth, skill, but above all have made the Rangers harder to play against. Perhaps most importantly where players such as Marian Gaborik weren’t entirely trusted by Tortorella anymore, you saw the likes of Derick Brassard on the ice toward the end of the game as the Rangers chased hard. Brassard came close from a bad angle that needed a review. The fact Tortorella is rolling lines more evenly – evidence of the additional depth –suggests the Rangers have depth to make a push.
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Will Sather make deadline deals?
As the Rangers bask in the glow of an impressive win over the Flyers on Tuesday and prepare for tonight’s game against the Senators, it all comes back to Ryan Callahan’s comment a few weeks back; ‘We have to back it up’. The Rangers need two points tonight just as much as they did on Tuesday. On to the musings
Derek Stepan. It is only fitting that this week’s musings begins with Stepan. He was immense on Tuesday, beyond ‘just’ the points. His back checking to break up plays, his stick work and positional sense were all great examples of his sky high hockey IQ and growing confidence. When a player is on top form he always seems to find a way to be on or around the puck. Stepan’s shown great development this year. Especially after his so-so start to the season
As a loyal commenter pointed out yesterday, Rick Nash would be on course for 82 points in a full season. However, where I disagree is that’s his ceiling. If Stepan’s development curve continues and Nash has a training camp under his legs I think he has 100 point potential as a Ranger. His skill set is definitely 100 point calibre.
Statistical quirk: The Rangers sit 4th in the league in goals against per game (all the more impressive given the injuries on D and the overall team record) yet despite that lofty ranking they don’t have a shutout this season, yet.
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If it wasn’t for two fortunate goals by the Flyers this game, on paper, would look like it did on the ice; a comprehensive victory for the Rangers. Led by the dominant top line the Rangers scored a few impressive goals and got solid performances all over the line up. Brad Richards had his best game in weeks, Lundqvist was solid, Kreider was energetic and dangerous all while Rick Nash and Derek Stepan manhandled the Flyers defense. Stepan in particular seems to grow with every additional game. On to the goal breakdown
Rangers 1-0; Rick Nash (14:54)
The Rangers opened the scoring with a Derek Stepan clinic. First of all, the Rangers center created a turnover behind the Flyers net with some great stick work (doing the basics right, stick on the ice) and eventually sent the puck up to the point where Girardi sent a shot glancing off the post. The puck came back to the Rangers and eventually to Stepan who, positioned to the right of Bryzgalov, sent a crisp pass over to Rick Nash who was moving toward goal and Nash put it top right on the Flyers goalie for the lead. A solid goal, forced by the Rangers desire to retrieve pucks.
Rangers 2-0; Brad Richards PP goal (3:14)
The Rangers got a big second goal early in the middle period as they connected on the powerplay. After initially struggling to get into and set up in the Flyers zone the Rangers finally did and moved the puck around at the blue line when it finally comes to Richards to the left of Bryzgalov, up high. Using defenseman Andrej Meszaros as a screen Richards absolutely rifled one up high past the Flyers goalie. A great shot from Richards to double the lead.
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Can Kreider’s recent good form translate to the NHL this year?
It’s rather a sombre beginning to a Musings post today as the unfortunate news of Glen Sather receiving treatment for prostate cancer reached us all. Whether you’re a Sather fan or not, I’m sure everyone joins me in repeating the wishes from this morning’s post here at the site in wishing a full and quick recovery.
One more thing regarding Sather; following an abysmal start as Rangers general manager he’s done a terrific job over the past several seasons. Wherever you look the Rangers have a bright future. Prospects dominating in Europe, a young farm team full of prospects and a young, growing contender in New York. Eventually, Sather has restocked the franchise and fleeced several of his colleagues along the way. It’s that last aspect why I’m not nervous heading toward the trade deadline.
Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh have truly developed into integral parts of this roster. That isn’t going to be a cheap summer for Sather and co. Further down the line I can see problems for the Rangers; with the cap coming down after this year and Del Zotto, Girardi and Stralman with expiring contracts after the 13/14 season the management may have to part with one or several players for financial reasons.
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Plenty of goal celebrations tonight please.
If you think the Rangers media/fan base is bad, you should have seen the stink kicked up by Jake Gardiner’s agent in Toronto. One naughty tweet (“free Jake Gardiner”) created a storm of speculation. Rangers’ prospects should relax knowing they don’t need to deal with the overzealous Toronto market.
Following on from his recent upturn in form, Michael Del Zotto is averaging a point per game against the Jets franchise. The Buffalo game aside (almost everyone stank), it will be interesting to see MDZ on the puck tonight and see whether he can continue to bring the level of poise and confidence he’s had recently. He’s an important part of this team, and when he’s on can make other players around him more dangerous.
Something about tonight’s match up; if the team can’t enter this game motivated, hungry, and with serious energy I’ll be slightly concerned. The Rangers and Jets are 8th and 9th in the standings, with the same points. There is a lot riding on this game. This is the kind of game where the Rangers better players need to step up.
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The Rangers shoot for a season best fourth victory in a row tonight against the Islanders. Naturally, the Islanders love playing spoiler to their big brother neighbours so it should be a dandy. On to the musings.
Where do you stand on the visor front? I’m all for mandatory visors and always have been. Hockey is a fast and dangerous sport why wouldn’t you want to be as safe as possible? It will be interesting to see if Marc Staal changes his stance when (not if) he returns.
Hate to say I told you so: I said on Twitter that the Rangers should go after Roman Hamrlik before he was claimed, and I thought that before Marc Staal’s injury. He’s not what he was at 38 years old, but a rusty Hamrlik is better at this stage of his career than Stu Bickel, or more consistent than Matt Gilroy. Regarding the concern over his skating: Bickel can’t skate either and Gilroy’s skating ability hasn’t exactly helped him establish himself. So Hamrlik still represents an upgrade on the third pair, even with his limited skating ability.
One final thing on Staal; Assuming he misses the rest of the season, by the time next October comes around Staal will have missed a lot of hockey in the past two years. Does that affect him long term? It could go one of two ways; either he’ll benefit from having plenty left in the tank or he’ll have missed so much competitive hockey he’ll not be the same player he was.
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Ryan O’Reilly was touted in various circles as a potential trade target for the Rangers during the team’s recent poor stretch of form. That was until he signed back with the Avalanche via an offer sheet from the Calgary Flames. In the process, O’Reilly may have just caused a headache for the Rangers.
O’Reilly signed a two year, $10 million offer sheet from the Flames which the Avalanche were quick to match. In a nutshell, the talented fourth year Avs center is now making five million per year (cap hit) the next two years. Here’s where the problems start. O’Reilly; statistics, position, style and age is very similar and thus a comparable to the Rangers’ Derek Stepan. Stepan is about to become a restricted free agent this summer.
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Last week on Twitter I posed the simple question: Would you trade Derek Stepan straight up for Ryan O’Reilly? At the time it was just a hypothetical, but last night the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater reported that an O’Reilly trade is likely going to happen.
O’Reilly, of course, is the last of the three star RFAs to continue holding out into the season. Both Jamie Benn and P.K. Subban have been playing with their respective teams for weeks, but O’Reilly and the Avalanche appear to be no closer to a deal.
O’Reilly reportedly wants five-years, $25 million while Colorado, a notoriously stingy franchise, is unwilling to budge from its offers of two-years, $7 million or five-years, $17 million. There seems to be no resolution on the horizon and it’s become very possible that Colorado will trade its star 22-year-old centerman. Read more »
Another Ranger is heading overseas. This time around, it’s Derek Stepan, who will be heading to Finland to play with Kalpa Kuopio of SM-Liga.
Off to play in Finland! #kalpa
Notable NHLers on Kalpa are Sami Kapanen and Craig Smith (Nashville).
Update 3:00pm: Thanks to agentsmith for pointing this out: Smith and Stepan were teammates at Wisconsin.
It’s a musings day folks. With little Ranger specific news let’s just get into it and talk about anything and everything, ok?
What side of the CBA war do you side with? It’s hard to link arms with the owners and the league, a league that has come across as incredibly greedy through the media. Are they greedy? Was the last CBA that bad that they had to resort to extreme measures?
Is there a public figure or leader – in sports or entertainment – with as negative a public reputation as Gary Bettman? He’s actually done a solid job over the years. Despite stretching it too far, expansion has been a relative (and necessary) success for the league; he has grown the sport immeasurably and has proven a strong leader in the face of challenges such as the KHL and on matters such as the Olympics. That said, if his reign ended tomorrow he’d be considered greedy, too stubborn and arrogant.
Do you think the public appearance of players such as Crosby, Ovechkin or Lundqvist influences the NHLPA’s position or media and fan bias in the CBA talks?
We discussed how the Flyers may be a competitor for the Rangers for blueliners going forward. Right now the Canadiens cannot get PK Subban to ink a new deal. Well, is there anyone more suited to the Flyers mould than? Cocky yet talented, considered a pretty dirty player but an offensive threat Subban may be more of a target for Flyers than Michael Del Zotto would be.
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