State of the Rangers

Rangers Opening Night – Three things to get excited about


There are zero days until the New York Rangers season begins.  A long and intriguing off-season has brought about the usual combination of excitement and uncertainty that accompanies a new season in any sport.

For the Rangers, there are still plenty of questions that need answering, most of which won’t be addressed on Opening Night.  Tonight is one for clichés, fun and storylines: season debuts and first-ever goals.  Of course the game itself matters, but it’s the very beginning of a six month marathon.  If the Rangers slip up, they’ve got 81 games to right the ship.

Still, there’s plenty to get excited about as 2017-2018 kicks off.  Here’s what I’m most looking forward to:

1) Kevin Shattenkirk’s Rangers debut

Sure, we got a glimpse of Shattenkirk in Rangers blue during pre-season, but it was pretty clear that he (like all of the other veterans) was simply shaking off rust and mostly trying to avoid injury.  Shattenkirk’s backstory and love for the Blueshirts are well-documented, but it truly will be a special moment for the player, the club and its fans when he takes the ice.  If he ends up scoring a goal or providing a signature assist, the energy from the crowd will be electric.

2) Chytilmania

Filip Chytil has fans and media buzzing after his stellar preseason.  Unlike Shattenkirk, Chytil had something to play for during training camp and earned his spot by displaying skill and hockey sense beyond his years.  Jeff Gorton and Alain Vigneault had no choice but to give Chytil a chance, and they’re clearly showing faith in the 18-year old by putting him on a line with Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello.  Of course AV will have to fight the urge to bench Chytil whenever he makes a mistake, but that’s a discussion for another time.  It should be exciting to watch Chytil develop, and hopefully make an immediate impact on the Rangers.

3) A more dynamic power play

Given the rate at which penalties were called during the preseason, it’s safe to assume that the Rangers will have a power play chance or six in tonight’s game.  With the addition of not only Shattenkirk but Tony DeAngelo as well, it’s reasonable to expect the Rangers to be more consistently dangerous with the man-advantage than they have been the last few seasons.  There is more than enough talent up front, and the hope is that an elite power play quarterback like Shattenkirk could turn an average unit into one that can be a game-changer.  The first power play of the season could (should?) be fun.

Predictions (just for fun):

First goal of the season: Michael Grabner got last year’s, but I’m going with Brady Skjei this year.

Leading scorer: Mika Zibanejad will truly break out and post a 60-plus point season, pacing the Rangers.

Final record: 49-25-8, 106 points, 2nd in the Metropolitan Division.  This team is better than most people think, as the consensus seems to be that they’re a fringe playoff team.  Even in an improved Eastern Conference, the Rangers can still score (people seem to forget this, weirdly) and will get better defense (and thereby, goaltending) than they got last season.

Enjoy Opening Night everyone!

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  • No more supposition. It gets real. I am wary of the 3rd pair. Could be the worst defensive pair in the division.

    4th line needs to show value when they are in.

    Looking for Nash to have a huge year and for Hank to be a force in goal.


  • Nash producing a big offensive year can have a rippling effect on the Ranger; Cytil will gain starting in the league with an offensive force, the team’s offense would surpass expectations (lethal power play, can you imagine), and then there’s Nash himself, I believe is on last leg of contract. Can they afford to pay him big bucks, with fingers crossed he earns it, or does he go for a contract the team can afford?

  • It’s been a LONG offseason.
    Zucc getting the ‘A’ is not only well deserved, but an excellent move by the powers that be.
    Chytil couldn’t be playing with two wingers that are better suited than Nash and Zucc. Both will really help this kid.

  • Powerplay should be is a concern. The Rangers with the exception of their netminders are actually a young team. It is the development of their young players that will determine how successful the Rangers will be this year.

  • Consensus said rangers a fringe playoff team?????/ Unless consensus means every 1 out of 5, I dont get that , since I think most believe we have strengthened our Defense to make it one of the best in the division [ minus stall could be best]
    Nash on contract year……buck, vesey no longer rookies….barring 1/2 dozen injuries this is the best rangers team I have seen in years!!!!!!

    • Every prediction I read has suggested the Rangers are 4th place in the Metro. Some believe 4th in the Metro is 5th or 6th in the Eastern Conference. So while a wildcard finish seems like a “bubble team”, it isn’t really if a team below them in the division standings makes the playoffs.

      I think this team is a certain playoff team unless Lundqvist demonstrates that last season was not a bad year, but about where he is in his career.

    • Hi Rich,
      I’m not sure the “experts” who pick the Rangers as a fringe or bubble playoff team aren’t looking at just the Rangers, but evaluating them against the rest of our division.
      Everything you said is correct, our D should be much better, Buch and Ves have the experience.
      Personally I have high hopes, but then I always have high hopes………

      • Jerry
        Watching the pens last night, unless crosby goes down , I cant see us beating them yet……Caps lost several key players, philly looks a little better, tampa fast and skilled but small, very small……Devils…nah…..
        isles….nah…….montreal…..we should have beat them in 5…..same with ottowa…..bruins?
        I can see us facing Pens and hope the long seasons for them the last 2 years makes them vulnerable……..

        • Jackets have a lot of talent and the Vezina winner. Leafs should be very good. Canes should be much better.

          I think top to bottom the East has more balance, but I agree the best teams have taken a hit, which could open a door here.

    • Best team in years? Rich my friend, you are going off the rails again with your usual extreme hyperbole. :). This might be the weakest group of centers among the contenders in the East. Enormous questions to answer up and down the lineup.

      What I see….

      Defense, power play, possibly (hopefully) penalty kill should be much improved. Even with the concerns on the third pair, the top two pairs look real good. Only concerns are simply that we are assuming no sophomore slump for Skjei, we are assuming McDonagh and Shattenkirk will have this great chemistry when we have no idea if they actually will.

      I think we will spend less time in our own zone. We will be quicker with the puck. More o-zone time means less high danger shots for Hank to deal with.

      I’m very bullish on a Hank bounce back year. But if for some reason that does not happen, it’s over. We won’t even make the playoffs. With Allaire working with him, Pavelec should be a solid backup, but I doubt seriously he can do what Talbot and Raanta have done the last four seasons. That’s been an enormous luxury for the Rangers that people forget about. I see a regression in our point total for that reason alone, especially since Pav will play 25 games or so.

      I’m very, very concerned about our lack of depth at center. I think we are going to miss Stepan more than you and others think. We are asking Zib to take on a bigger role and improve his game in the process. We are banking a lot of our hopes on an 18 year old kid who had an impressive camp, but he’s just a kid. Will he even last beyond 9 games? Should he regardless? Is it better for his development and for the Rangers long term for him to go back to Europe and get playing time? What happens if Zib or Hayes get hurt again, as they both did last year? To me, the center issue issue may well be the key to the whole season.

      Can Nash stay healthy and have a big year in his walk season? 35, maybe even 40 goals? Then we have a legit star on our hands again—the guy we traded for. We need that Nash (or something close to that) this year to legitimately contend. I think it’s possible.

      What will Vesey and Buch be in year two? Total unknowns.

      Then, there’s the old waiting game regarding our so-called stars—Kreider, Miller and Hayes. These guys completely disappeared after mid-February and through the playoffs. They have to bust out as legit forces in this league on a much more consistent basis. If that, at long last, were to happen….then yes, this can be a very special group. But it’s a huge question mark.

      The Rangers got off to a great start last year, slumped around the holidays, played well in January, then became a .500 team from mid-February on and through the playoffs. So who are the REAL NY Rangers?

      That’s what we hope to find out, starting tonight.

      My prediction—-point reduction down to 95, but we make the playoffs as a wildcard. But at the deadline, Gorton makes a bold move for center help and that propels us to a deep playoff run.

      I’m excited though as well my friend…because a new season always brings hope. LGR!!!!!

      • All valid points, but you can choose to take the pessimistic approach (no strength at center) or a more positive spin that the new centers will bring youth, strength and a more positive influence and scoring potential than Stepan ever did.

        I choose the latter.

        • I’m not sure I would consider a “… us to make a deep playoff run” prediction as pessimistic.

          I agree that there will be times we miss Stepan. He was a good all-around player and the best center on the roster, but he didn’t have the offensive ability most of us want in a #1 center.

      • 3E
        Wow….you are too pessimistic…..Yes, like I said, if we sustain 1/2 dozen major injuries….we wont be as good……a no brainer……
        BUT you must admit our defense has improved vastly from a minus to a plus……why do you think two veterean pro’s like mcdonagh and shattenkirk wont play well together? Should we have kept girardi???? Another no brainer…….If deangelo can somehow survive playing with stall …Big plus!
        you said…..”’I think we will spend less time in our own zone. We will be quicker with the puck. More o-zone time means less high danger shots for Hank to deal with.”’You just made another good point!!!!!! That makes us better……
        Buch, vesey, should improve with a year of experience, as should sjkel……
        Most expect Zib, hayes to put up more points simply be not getting injured and missing games and their continued improvement since both are still relatively young and played wonderfully before their injuries…….
        If nash, kreider, miller zucc, grabner have normal year this team is definitely better than last years …..
        I was not a stepan fan , so I do not think he will be missed……
        If hank implodes…..another no brainer….yes if your starting goalie stinks the entire year you wont do well……thats not a revelation 3E…….
        When was the last time we had a rangers team with this kind of young talent? 78-79 with murdoch, duguay, deblois, mcquen and hickey? They reached the finals…….
        I guarantee 95-100 points , not more because we are too young…..but the future is bright!!!!!!!!

        • I agree the future is bright…but how bright? Stanley Cup bright? How many Cups did Murdoch, Duguay, DeBlois and Hickey win? (McEwen won with the Islanders). Did I miss their HOF inductions? :). There is no question you are right…these are all a bunch of very good players that will be fun to watch for the next several seasons, just like those Rangers from nearly 40 years ago. But are there any great players here? That’s the question. I maintain you need at least one—that one go to guy. Not seeing that guy…at least not yet.

          On Shattenkirk and McDonagh, I’m not at all saying they won’t have very good chemistry. They probably will. My point is simply, we won’t know until we know. Just because they are veteran pros does not necessarily mean they will work well together. Ask the Caps how well Shattenkirk fit in there. Again, I dont expect that at all. I expect this to work. But there is a tendency to go a little overboard with our expectations. I’m cautiously optimistic it will work. That’s all I’m willing to say.

          Obviously, Shatty is a major upgrade over Girardi, no doubt.

          Absolutely agree on the defense creating more o-zone time being a big plus. I agree with that.

          But I think you are ignoring the downside. Pavelec likely will NOT be as tremendous as Talbot or Raanta were. Just more the law of averages than anything else. So if he’s more like Biron or Valiquette, and he plays 25 games, that suggests a reduction in wins, regardless of the defensive improvements.

          I disagree on the offense. I can’t recall too many teams having success with marginal center play. Zib and Hayes need to be great. Grabner is almost certain to level off. Stepan, for all his foibles, still was reasonably productive. So Nash, Kreider, Miller having the same seasons they just had will not be nearly enough. Someone has to pick up the slack, which means those guys have to raise their game.

          Buch, Vesey and Skjei—I’m with you. If I’m a betting man, I’d say 2 of the 3 should improve. But it doesn’t always work that way. Progress isn’t always linear. Sophomore slumps happen.

          Again, the Rangers were a .500 team mid-February on. Their goal scoring dropped off dramatically almost on a monthly basis. I expect us to be better defensively, but while our o-zone time will improve, I think our goal scoring may level off. We still lack any true sniper/finisher types. So I do think we will be back to playing a lot of low scoring games.

          But end of day prediction of 95-100 points, you and I are in agreement!

          • I think our biggest hope for a ”star center ” would be chytil…..he looked real good in preseason…..that being said at his age I would have preferred he spend another year with his European? league team ……
            NHL is a huge jump for most 18 year olds……

          • That’s just it… I like the kid a lot too. But he’s 18. The chances he can help us now in a significant role are pretty small. He’s at least a year or two away IMO.

      • The disagreement here is just perspective. These Rangers are probably the highest ceiling Rangers in the last twenty years. There is a lot of reason for excitement – and those younger than you and I should be excited. I don’t know how many Cub teams I have felt that way about.

        But this team also has a very low floor. Did Paul Carey make the team because he belongs – or because the Rangers just didn’t have enough NHL forwards? Chytil may not even stick. Is Buchnevich the forward he was at the start of last year, better, or the guy at the end who was RIGHTFULLY benched in favor of Tanner Glass (and no, I am not a Glass fan). Forward injuries may devastate. The goaltending may fall apart.

        I’m guessing the Rangers sit the playoffs out this year, but an optimist would be crazy to think that.

        • I think everyone can agree the roster made some improvements in the skill and speed arena, especially on the backend. I think it will be a much different environment going forward for the team and I will be interested in how different the defense will play this year considering the new personnel and coaching. I think it is important to remember the Rangers had one of the best defenses in the NHL a couple years back, and that was with guys who were more defensive-minded and focused on limiting high danger scoring chances (and in their primes). This new look defense seems like they will be much better at getting the puck out of the zone, hitting forwards in stride, or skating it in themselves, but I do worry a bit about how things will shape up in the d-zone (I am a lifelong defenseman so I look at things through that lens). So, agreed on the high ceiling/low floor, and I will drop the mic with a bang: Brendan Smith really isn’t that good and his contract will be a widely discussed item within the next couple years. Don’t get me wrong, the Rangers pretty much had to sign him after making that trade and seeing what else was on the market, but I am actually a bit concerned going forward.

          • That’s interesting. I like Smith but I share the same concerns. Have we overpayed for a guy who impressed in a brief stretch? Is he a guy who might regress? Very fair and reasonable concern.

      • Rumor has it that the NYR are waiting on McPhee to make some of his deals and will get around to sending Lindbergh back to NYR for a pick. Supposedly told TSN he would like to make at least (3) deals in the next couple of days.

        • Is that allowed? I thought I read somewhere Vegas could not deal a drafted player back to his original team for one year. Did I read that wrong?

  • I pray that AV will have a light inside of him to lead the Rangers team the right way and utilize the player’s strengths and abilities in the right time and way. I hope when the team plays well he does not change the way they are playing and when they play poorly he finds a way to recreate the spark which will put them on the right track.
    Put them in a position to succeed such as not putting defensive players on the offensive draw or calling out Veterans when they make constant mistakes.
    May he put players like Nash on offense and not on defense because he gets paid to score and not to be a defensive specialist we have others to do that job.

    • First goal of the season: Kreider
      Leading scorer: Butch
      Final record: 82-0, 164 points, 1st in the Metropolitan Division

      Hey, you knuckle draggers! You don’t want AV to do well?

  • Prediction: Tampa crash & burn, fire Cooper. Defense is not good beyond Hedman(Sergachev is 2nd best, can’t play D yet), group of forwards is beyond small(9 out of 14 are under 6′) so you guys who believe that the league is all about speed & skill have your test case.

    • Not to mention, their goaltending is a complete mystery with Vasilevskiy taking over for Bishop. Has talent, but completely untested.

      That has a chance to blow up also.

      BUT, let’s also admit the top end talent on that team is elite and can carry them as well.

      • How long does it take to post those replays? Do I have to wait until 3 or 4 in the morning? I heard NHL live center does replays but it can take up to 2 full days for them to post so really anything less than that sounds better but I’m just curious.

  • I’ve come to the light. I’m not going to watch this year. I’ll be 100% satisfied with a good regular season cause we have no great players and Let the great ones hoist the cup cause why bother playing.

    Yes tongue in cheek

    • Why do I think that comment was directed at me? 🙂

      I think you should watch John. Maybe some players will become great. I would never rule that out. There is potential. But even you would have to admit there are a lot of question marks here, maybe more than we have seen on a Rangers team in awhile. If most or all get answered in the affirmative, and perhaps a few teams considered better than us underachieve, then sure, anything is possible.

      I realize these things are totally subjective, but both NHL Network and TSN put out their lists of Top 50 players. There isn’t a single Ranger listed. Top 20 forwards and top 20 centers? Again, not a single Ranger. We have McDonagh and Shattenkirk in the bottom third of top 20 defensemen, and Hank number 8 on the list of top 10 goalies. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

      Nate Silver’s 538 blog analyzed the SC champions over the past decade and looked at the contenders this year. They concluded that star power is almost always essential to success. And in analyzing the Rangers, the analysis showed we are near the bottom of the league in that regard—so if anything one could make the case that the Rangers have largely overachieved relative to talent rather than the reverse.

      Now again, I know what you are going to say, these lists are totally subjective, and I agree with that. But it seems to me that it is more than reasonable to question whether this group, as currently constructed, with similar production to what each player had last year or the last few years, can realistically beat a Tampa, a Washington, a Pittsburgh and whomever would come out of the West in four 7 game series.

      Not impossible. Nothing is in sports. But if the Rangers win the Cup as currently designed, to me it would be one of the more improbable championships in recent sports history.

      • The LA Kings really didn’t have any stars until they won the Cup; then suddenly their players were stars.

        Years ago, Bill James developed formulas for entry into the Hall of Fame for various positions – 100 points got you in. Well, there were points assigned for getting to the World Series and more for winning it. You could have two outfielders with identical batting average, home runs etc, but the Yankee would make the HOF and the other guy not.

        You can’t win the Cup without stars, because the media will find stars on a winning team.

        • Your point certainly has some validity. But Kopitar and Doughty were and are legit stars. Kopitar is still considerd a top 50 player in this league. Doughty is in the conversation each year for the Norris. I’d say both are a step up from the guys we brought to the party.

          But, let’s say you are correct. After all, the Kings were often a borderline playoff team before they got hot at the right time…twice. That’s still somewhat the outlier approach. What was going on with the Pens of that era? Crosby was concussed. Malkin was hurt often. That’s what opened the door for the likes of the Bruins, the Rangers and even the Devils to make runs out of the East in recent seasons. And the Lightning, when they are at their best and healthy, have high end stars that are tough to beat.

          So maybe the better way to say it is, more often than not, teams need some elite talent to win. But under the right set of circumstances, teams possessing more of that “next tier” level of talent can pull it off if everything breaks just right.

          • Granted Rick Nash is not Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid or even Evgeni Malkin. But neither is Anze Kopitar Rick Nash.

            And the difference between Drew Doughty and Ryan McDonagh is two Cups, that’s all.

            Elite talent is a good thing. It is a lot easier to put together a championship team if you can start with a Crosby, Ovechkin, or McDavid. But Nashville came awful close last year, not because they had an elite player, but because their fourth best defenseman was really really good and so they could have two quality defensemen on the ice whenever they needed and the great majority of the game.

            And remember, the Cup is decided by short series and there is a lot of luck. The weakest team the 2016 Penguins faced was the only team to take them to seven games. A couple more lucky breaks and the Pens fall to a team not even good enough to make the playoffs the following year.

      • 3E
        Surprised that neither mcdonagh nor kreider nor grabner [better year than some on that list] were not in that top 50…..Ovie # 22?… talbot makes the list!!!!!
        Looking at all the great players…..yes we could use a superstar……
        but I am thinking we got a dozen in the 50-100 category!!

        • McDonagh was like 47th last year I think. He’s a borderline top 50 player at best. Kreider, as usual, you are overrating. Top 50 players bring more consistency and are difference maker types. He needs to take another step forward to have a shot at that. Grabner? Seriously? Your obsession with this guy is amusing!

          I would agree if there was a list rating the best third line guys in the league that he would probably be top 10. But third line wingers don’t make a league’s top 50 list. If they did, they wouldn’t be on the third line, right?

          Rich, I love your passion man…but wow do you have a tendency to live on the margins when it comes to evaluations! 🙂

  • I want to play!

    First goal of the season: I think Hayes gets the first goal from Shattenkirk and Miller.

    Leading scorer: JT Miller

    Final record: 47-29-6 for 100 points.

    FWIW, Vegas has the O/U at 95.5 points. I think a lot of things have to go wrong for the Rangers to finish with less than 96 points. LGR!

  • The assumption that DeAngelo will strengthen the power play is questionable – even making the assumption that he will be good at it. The fact that he and Shattenkirk play the same side suggests that it may weaken the PP to play them simultaneously. So DeAngelo’s playing time may come at the expense of Shatty. That may be better for the Rangers for the whole game, but the great power plays often have one dominant guy on the ice for two minutes.

    Of course, 4 and 5 minute PPs are another matter.


    Side note: As far as I can tell, Desjardins hasn’t made the team and the Rangers are starting with twelve forwards.

    • Having one D play their off hand to generate quick one timers is how Holden and Klein generated a lot of their points the last few seasons, so we know that isn’t an issue.

      • Interesting point. I never understood why Marc Staal never played on the right side. When he played with Del Zotto, MDZ always got the wrong side and couldn’t hack it. MDZ seemed respectable on the left and I never got why they didn’t even try it the other way.

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