Rangers Musings: statement games & future Ranger great?

michael grabner

Pavel Bur… I mean Michael Grabner… Photo: NHLI/Getty Images

People talk about the Rangers 5-2 come from behind win against the Pens as a statement game.  For me, the biggest statement games were the significant Blues and Lightning victories a couple of weeks back – I feel they were more complete games even if the comeback against the Pens was very impressive. For me, the Rangers gave up far too many high quality chances against the Pens on Monday. It wasn’t a quality defensive performance.

Michael Grabner could go pointless for the rest of the season and he’d already represent good value. His goal against the Blue Jackets last week summed him up best. His speed gives teams fits, he’s up on the play so quickly and once he’s away you cannot catch him. The way he settled the puck and finished his breakaway underlined the confidence he’s playing with right now. It was a goalscorers finish.

Oh, and another thing: Michael Grabner, Cy Young winner?

Kevin Hayes is already half way to his points total from last season. He’s got 59 games to match his underwhelming sophomore season. Hayes should comfortably break 50 points for the first time and the way he’s playing there’s no ceiling for him right now. That’s without factoring in the additional ice time he’ll see with Mika Zibanejad’s unfortunate injury.

Against the Pens Hayes immediately saw his ice time go up from the Panthers game. His TOI jumped from 15:26 to 17:28. He also played almost exactly double the PP time. Hayes could be in for a huge year.

You know your team is playing well and on a hot streak when you see the following stat line:

G/F: 1st, 81 GF. G/A: 8th, 46 GA. PP %: 8th, 21.7 PP%. PK % 7th, 85.5 PK%

My instant reaction to the Zibanejad injury was that ‘Boo’ Nieves should be brought back into the line-up. Josh Jooris, while a solid depth player, isn’t likely to be a long-term option for the Rangers. Meanwhile the team’s strong start to the season, the relative safety of the fourth line and the skill Nieves would bring to the line-up would make him an ideal fill in at a convenient time. Giving Nieves an extended look also let’s the Rangers know very early in his pro career, just where he is on his development curve.

Ryan McDonagh should be an early season Norris trophy contender. The obvious contenders thus far are the usual suspects such as Brent Burns, Shea Weber and Erik Karlsson but McDonagh’s name should at least be in the discussion if he carries on with this level of play throughout the year. His move for Hayes’ goal against the Pens was truly elite level skill. McDonagh is back to being a dominant two-way force.

More McDonagh: he’s very sneakily approaching 200 points as a Ranger.

Here’s more sneaky statistics for you. Derek Stepan is not only quietly having a solid season (despite the relative lack of goals) but he’s climbing the Rangers all time points charts and quickly. Some fans are divided on whether Stepan represents good cap value (he absolutely does) but there’s no denying his impact as a Ranger.

Already 35th on the all-time list, he could be as high as 25th overall by the years’ end. He needs another 33 points to catch Petr Nedved. Bear in mind Stepan is 26 and has another five years on his contract. If he only averages 50 points per season for the duration of his contract Stepan would be in the Rangers top ten scorers of all time – at 31. If Stepan plays for the Rangers beyond his current contract he may climb right into the top five Rangers point scorers of all time, surpassing players such as Andy Bathgate and Mark Messier. Not bad for a late second round pick. For all you Stepan haters out there, think about those numbers and those Rangers alumni. That’s rarefied air Stepan could end up sharing.

It’s been a while since we had a question time so here goes;

  • Who ends the season with more goals: Grabner or Rick Nash
  • Who ends up leading this team in scoring?
  • A quarter of the season in (already!) how do you grade Jimmy Vesey thus far, and why?
  • Trying your hardest to be critical, which Ranger has most disappointed you thus far and why?
  • Which core player on the roster, right now, are you most willing to part with in a trade to upgrade the blueline – and why?
  • Should the Rangers pull a Talbot, and trade Antti Raanta in offseason?