State of the Rangers

Looking for upside; which Rangers need to improve in the second half?

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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  • Stop playing with his head and either let him play or move him . I am sure there are at least 20 teams that would take him off our hands . . Watched Pens at the Caps last night that kid Wilson is going to be pretty good one day .Pens have looked terrible every time i watched them this year 2 line team and nothing at all in the bottom six . We need to fix our bottom six long before we secure a playoff position . Biggest need is 3C and put Hayes on the wing if D Moore is our 3rd line center we are in trouble . He is a very good 4th line center . We also need to get bigger Hags/Zucc/MSL/Fast /Stepan /Brass /Stepniak will not get it done in the Cup games . Wecan get by with the D as is if we can get a 3C that win some draws and add a little O

    • Fast is only being played on the fourth line. Hes doing his job. I think they’re happy with his play. What they need is a consistent effort, and consistent scoring from someone other than Nash. If MSL could just bury 1 or 2 of the great chances he seems to get every night, they would be in a really good position. Same goes for Kreider and Stepan. Zuccarello needs to step it up also; as well as Brassard. In other words, they all need to pick it up. You can’t overreact to another loss to the Isles; but you have to take notice of how they are losing to them. The Isles can match or surpass the Rangers speed, and they always seem to out-muscle them; even though they are not that big of a team. Just something to take notice of, and address at the deadline; if they can.

  • To me, you need to add Zucc and Brassard to the list. Zucc, because he needs to score more and Brass because it is his job to get Zucc the puck where he can score. Boyle, Kreider, McD, yes to all. JT can score 5 goals in 2 games and AV will still bench him for an errant pass. Save us all some grief and use JT in a deal.

  • The Rangers just came off and are still a hot team. It’s always hard to pick at the team when they ahem rolled in the recent past. It would be nice to see Mcd get it together, he just does’t seem to be that same player… Boyle just isn’t what they hoped he’d be. I do not think he will ever get there. I hope we make some moves to get this team a little more face-offs, some grit, without losing some good core guys.

    Hank needs a cup! he deserves a cup, do you think he will ask for a trade one day?
    a few years form now …

    I would!

  • I’m glad that I’m not the only person out there that feels the way I do about Miller. The kid could score a hat trick every game, but miss a check, or turn a puck over, he’s riding the pine again………..

    There is plenty of areas for improvement, the entire team can improve, but I believe that once Kreider starts scoring, the pressure gets off of Nash’s shoulders, and we then would have 2 good scoring lines.

    A good 3-C, with Hayes, and Hags on the wings, would also help big time. Hayes then could maybe be a scoring machine himself, as opposed to being a passer. He tries like hell, and is improving with every game, but he is better suited for the wing, where he has been most successful at the college level.

    • One game JT passed the water bottle with the label facing out and got scratched the next game.

  • We need to get a winger with size or would rather go for Hanzel beleive he 6.6 and then play Hayes on the wing with Hags . 4th line can win you games in SCP always by just chipping in a goal every 3rd game or so and playing good D and PK Right now we have a small forward on every line Zucc/Fast MSL/Hags thats with out including Brass/ Stepan There is hardly ever any need for a fighter in the SCP so there will be no need for Glass
    Kreider/Stepan /MSL
    Hags/Miller /Moore/ Some one like Wilsoon the Caps
    If we play Moore 3rd line center we are going nowhere ,he is a very good 4th C and PKer , but that is what he brings to the party and that is all we should expect from him .Don’t know what it would take to get either Santorelli /Hanzel for our 3rd line , but i think we could contend ,even with the D staying the same and Henrik not giving up another goal like last night , 4 point swing with the Fish Sticks losing

  • When the coach doesn’t dress the best players available then right off the bat the team is at a disadvantage.

    I can only hope, at this point, it is showcasing for a trade. We can only hope.

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