Wrong side of the net, Khudobin.
This past week kind of embodies what it’s been like to be a Rangers fan the past few years. They had a stellar showing against some weak competition after calls for the team to go on a run through a soft portion of the schedule. So far, so good, right? We always have that little seed of doubt, due mostly to runs of maddening inconsistency and lingering concerns about the results matching the #fancystats or the eye test.
As I was kicking around ideas for a post for today, I realized there are some interesting concepts floating around the team, but no prevailing narrative since we are all kind of holding out breathe to see if this team has really turned the corner after injuries and inconsistency. So, you get a thoughts post… Read more »
50 goal season?
What a difference a week makes. The Rangers went to Western Canada unsure of themselves and came back on a roll, with a double header against a weak opponent on tap. It’s the festive season and the Rangers can really make some ground up to close out the year. A week to go before Christmas, let’s muse.
The cliché was always that power forwards take several years to maximise their potential. Could it really be that Rick Nash has only just begun to fulfil his potential? Yes he has been an elite power forward for several years and a consistent goal scorer but it’s a fair argument that he’s never maxed his undoubted skill set and upside. Until now.
Nash is definitely having the best patch of his career. Consistent, a beast at both ends all the while he’s finishing at an unprecedented rate. He’s a game changing force every single game. It’s early, but people have started to whisper the words Hart Trophy candidate with regard to Nash. Absolutely deserves to be in the mix.
Should we be worried about Dan Boyle? Or glad that he’s a sort of afterthought because of the improved play of the Rangers ‘big three’ on the blueline?
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Goal scorer extraordinaire (Scott Levy/Getty Images)
Have a happy thanksgiving everyone. Just a few Rangers thoughts to keep you going as you head into the thanksgiving weekend.
Last season it was a ‘Marty St Louis love fest’. The two games against the Lightning this season, well they have been Ryan Callahan love fests. Given the Rangers’ familiarity with their former captain and fan favourite it is completely unacceptable Callahan can have as much time and space in front of Lundqvist as he has done. Has a player ever torched their ex-club so much in their first games against their former employers as Captain Cally has?
Once again, we’ve seen the ugly side of Marc Staal. He was awful against Callahan and the Lightning. Yet he was excellent against the Canadiens and Flyers. Again, this type of inconsistency cannot be accepted especially for someone wanting the dollars Staal does.
Rick Nash scores when he wants. Nash had one of his quieter games in recent weeks. He wasn’t as dominant as he usually is yet he had a two point night. It’s always a good sign when a player finds ways to contribute even when not at their best. Nash has been a beast this year and is the absolute critical mass the Rangers need him to be.
Funny how things work out: Kevin Klein’s contract is starting to look very good value. In a league where a guy like Nikita Nikitn can get well over 4m on a multi-year deal, Klein’s steady improvement is making him a bargain. The sample size is small but Klein certainly has the talent to keep it up.
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We haven’t seen Kreider goal celebrations nearly enough. Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images
Thank god the Rangers have Rick Nash. That’s a statement not just uttered countless times by the Ranger fan base but is something that Chris Kreider has probably said a few times this season as well. Luckily for Kreider, Nash’s blistering start has diverted a lot of attention from several underperforming players including Kreider.
Kreider has had games this year where he has been utterly dominant. The big winger has been a wrecking ball and an offensive threat on almost every shift in some games. Then there is the Kreider that has disappeared and who has been a liability while contributing nothing offensively.
Right now, we’re seeing both sides from Kreider and that’s simply not good enough. He’s playing physically yet he’s not contributing offensively. This is the year that Kreider should be taking the next step, the year that he should be developing the consistency that elite players are known for. Obviously the skill set is there for Kreider to be a top tier power forward but he’s not delivering to expectations.
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Should the Rangers play Boyle tonight? Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America
Fresh off a dominant victory over the offensive juggernaut that are the Pens, things appear slightly rosier in Rangerland. Tonight, the Rangers have to cope with another offensively skilled team when the Avalanche comes to town. Let’s discuss the goings-on in Rangerland.
What to do with Duclair? I know I’m in the minority but I think I would send Duclair back to juniors. I would rather see him playing 20 minutes a night in Junior and dominating. Once the Rangers are back to full strength I think a guy like Jesper Fast would be better suited to a bottom six role and help the Rangers return to their identity of being a difficult team to play against.
I have Rick Nash in both my fantasy teams. I am very happy about this.
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Stepan’s return will have a major impact on the Rangers line-up. AP Photo/Bruce Bennett, Pool
As Derek Stepan has finally hit the ice with his team mates (albeit in a non contact jersey) the questions will now begin to focus more on where rather than when will Stepan play. Following the excellent instant chemistry Rick Nash has shown with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello the logical thinking will be to try and keep that trio in tact in the short term. Of course, given Nash’s not so pretty possession numbers perhaps Alain Vigneault will consider reuniting Stepan with the Rangers best and hottest forward.
Questions will be raised about Stepan’s match readiness. Will Stepan need to be eased back in? And can Nash be a spark for Stepan the way he appears to have been for Zuccarello and Brassard? The options for Stepan are numerous at this stage. With Stepan’s return almost certainly meaning the end of the Marty St Louis at center experiment, the chances are that Stepan will be paired with St Louis and Kreider, (finally) giving the Rangers two legitimate scoring lines for the first time this season.
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Going to the dirty areas, scoring more goals. (Photo: Adam Hunger/USA Today)
Right now, outside of Anaheim, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more confident and in-form goal scorer than Rick Nash. Other than the Ducks’ Corey Perry, Nash has been the best the league has to offer as October draws to a close but unlike Perry, Nash has had very little (consistent) support to this point of the season.
While they’re different players, the start to the year Nash has enjoyed has been reminiscent of how Jaromir Jagr put his Rangers team on his back and carried them all season long on his way to that historic 54 goal season a few years back. Right now, the Rangers need Nash not only to generate the offense that he has, but to help kick start other players into life. It appeared that this additional part of Nash’s job description started in earnest against the Wild.
Prior to Monday night Mats Zuccarello had struggled mightily – much like his start to last year. Derick Brassard had also been inconsistent but both players came up with huge efforts when lined up with Nash Monday night. Looking back to the start of the year and Chris Kreider has also had his most effective games with Nash as a running mate.
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Rick Nash is off to a hot goal-scoring streak to start the 2014-15 season, scoring 7 goals in 6 games, tops in the NHL. Nash, who was the subject of much criticism over the off-season for “not showing up” in the playoffs despite strong possession numbers, is in for a bit of a wake up call, which may be coming sooner than later. Ranger fans should be expecting a goal-scoring slump from the winger, but it’s ok.
Nash has had strong possession numbers over the course of his first two seasons with the Rangers. His CF% is 54.8 over that span. This season, in even strength situations, Nash’s CF% and FF% are last on the team (44.9 and 43.1 respectively). His saving grace thus far has been an insanely high and unsustainable SH% of 44.4%, which is going to drop dramatically over the course of the season. For a player who led the NHL in shots last postseason while only scoring 3 goals, he was bound to find a string of good fortune and he seems to have found it early on this year.
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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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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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