Dan Girardi - What a roller coaster year Girardi just completed. He looked totally lost at the beginning of the season (like several Blueshirts), but quickly turned around his game and played like his old self during the second-half. Management was convinced that Girardi’s early-season hiccups were an anomaly and rewarded him with a six-year, $33 million contract, essentially choosing Girardi over captain Ryan Callahan. But Girardi again looked like a liability once the playoffs started, culminating in his train wreck performance (mixed with a healthy share of bad luck) during the Stanley Cup Final that left many fans calling for a trade. Girardi had no more than a dislocated finger during the playoffs, so his pylon-like play should raise eyebrows given the substantial financial commitment New York made to him just a few months prior. Nevertheless, Girardi has been a tremendous player for the Rangers during his eight-year career, and, just as Brad Richards did at the start of this year, Girardi seems likely to bounce-back from this most recent embarrassment in a big way. Grade: B-
Anton Stralman - For almost his entire tenure in blue, Stralman was the most underappreciated player on the team. But thanks to his particularly stellar play during the postseason and some gushing comments from talking heads and bloggers alike, Stralman is now viewed as a must-keep player by many fans. Advanced metrics make Stralman look like a true stud, but he’s been a very good second-pairing defender, not necessarily a $5 million a year blueliner. Stralman contributes next to nothing offensively – though some argue that his possession metrics suggest he was a victim of bad luck and believe Stralman actually does far more to help the attack than his point total indicates. Stralman has certainly emerged as a very good defender, but he seems like a guy that was underrated for so long, he’s now overrated. Grade: A-
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Long term contention? Photo: Brad Penner, USA Today
The Rangers entertain the hapless Sabres tonight. A team with hopes of a deep playoff run should be winning tonight with ease so with that jinx behind us, let’s throw up a few Ranger based thoughts.
Let’s briefly address the ‘win now’ theory. Henrik Lundqvist is 32 and has a shiny new seven year deal. He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and with several examples of goalies playing to an elite level deep into their 30’s, there’s no reason to think Lundqvist can’t do the same.
The defense has a strong under-contract core (Staal, Girardi, McDonagh and Klein) of which none are the wrong side of thirty. The forward corps (Nash and St Louis not considered) could feature six players in the top nine who have contributed to the Rangers this year (as presently constructed) that are all 26 or under and of which none have maxed out their potential – think Kreider, Hagelin, Stepan, Zuccarello, Brassard and JT Miller.
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Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)
When the Rangers acquired Raphael Diaz for a 5th round pick, it was pegged as a depth move made by a team that needed a #7 defenseman pretty badly. We made the same assessment, but said not to sleep on that deal. Diaz was a solid contributor for Montreal and Vancouver, perhaps more-so than his numbers would indicate. The Rangers sorely needed an injury replacement, and the acquisition couldn’t have come at a better time.
It was three weeks following his acquisition that John Moore went down with an apparent concussion. When he was ready to return, Ryan McDonagh went down with a shoulder injury. Diaz has been in the lineup for nine straight games, notching a goal and an assist in the process. But it’s what he’s done away from the puck that has kept the blue line steady while their best defensemen has been sidelined.
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The. Best. Goalie. In. The. World. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
The Rangers are riding a strong run of form, have a goalie close to his peak and beat the Flyers with relative ease Wednesday night. With so many positives let’s muse.
They wouldn’t be the Philadelphia Flyers if they wouldn’t look to start something at the end of a game in which they’re losing, would they? Completely classless franchise.
I had a discussion with some friends today; are the Flyers the least classy organisation in sport?
McDonagh I: I’ve been banging the Ryan McDonagh drum for weeks now. He’s a bonafide elite, Norris worthy defenseman. He’s taken the next step that Marc Staal has always been close to taking but for various reasons (usually injury) hasn’t quite made. This year McDonagh went from being a quality two way defenseman to being a dominant linchpin of a quality defensive unit.
McDonagh II: Jaromir Jagr is perhaps the single greatest trade/acquisition in the Glen Sather era. Or is he? Has the McDonagh trade taken over Jagr as being the best move of the Sather reign? The trade with Montreal allowed so many dominoes to fall in place and that’s without factoring in the top 10 NHL defenseman he has become.
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Raphael Diaz, acquired from the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline, will make his Rangers debut tonight in New Jersey. Diaz will take John Moore’s spot in the lineup, as Moore did not return after taking a big hit in the first period of last night’s victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It is expected that Diaz will be on a pairing with Kevin Klein.
Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images
When the Rangers sent a 2015 5th round pick to Vancouver for Raphael Diaz, many wondered where he would fit in. The Rangers seem set in the top-four with Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein, and Marc Staal. They also have a fairly effective third pair in John Moore and Anton Stralman, although that pairing has been rather inconsistent of late. With Justin Falk serving as the backup, the acquisition of Diaz –at least on the surface– seemed odd.
But this isn’t an acquisition that we should sleep on. Aside from the obvious depth issues (Falk would be getting at least 10 minutes a night if there were an injury to one of the top-six), the Rangers are one of the worst in the NHL at getting production from their blue liners. Diaz isn’t just some scrub pick up. He’s got more points than Moore, Stralman, Klein, Falk, and Staal. From offensive production alone, he’s already third among Rangers blue liners.
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The Rangers upgraded on Justin Falk as their 7D as the deadline expired, nabbing Raphael Diaz from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a 2015 5th round pick. Diaz has a line of 1-11-12 in split time with Montreal and Vancouver this season, and would be a solid fill in on the bottom pair in case of injury. This is a depth move for the Rangers.
It should be noted that Diaz has better #fancystats than both John Moore and Kevin Klein.