Can Kreider’s recent good form translate to the NHL this year?
It’s rather a sombre beginning to a Musings post today as the unfortunate news of Glen Sather receiving treatment for prostate cancer reached us all. Whether you’re a Sather fan or not, I’m sure everyone joins me in repeating the wishes from this morning’s post here at the site in wishing a full and quick recovery.
One more thing regarding Sather; following an abysmal start as Rangers general manager he’s done a terrific job over the past several seasons. Wherever you look the Rangers have a bright future. Prospects dominating in Europe, a young farm team full of prospects and a young, growing contender in New York. Eventually, Sather has restocked the franchise and fleeced several of his colleagues along the way. It’s that last aspect why I’m not nervous heading toward the trade deadline.
Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh have truly developed into integral parts of this roster. That isn’t going to be a cheap summer for Sather and co. Further down the line I can see problems for the Rangers; with the cap coming down after this year and Del Zotto, Girardi and Stralman with expiring contracts after the 13/14 season the management may have to part with one or several players for financial reasons.
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Derek Stepan, just one of many reasons for optimism this season
There’s a million and one sporting clichés but one that often appears to ring true is how a team has to learn to lose and experience struggles before they can get to the top. The Rangers have struggled mightily at various stages this season. Perhaps, their struggles even began when they were outlasted by the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
Being positive, the Rangers are blessed with a talented roster that, while currently struggling to score, in reality there is plenty of scoring talent. Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik alone should be enough that the Rangers shouldn’t own the Eastern Conference’s (current) most anemic offense. The defense has a top four that is, when healthy, the envy of almost the entire league. And in net the Rangers don’t have to bow down to a single team in any corner of any league. Yet this team is scrapping for their lives just to make the playoffs, let alone make some noise when there.
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“Line changes? what line changes?”
For the sake of himself, the Rangers, and their entire season, John Tortorella needs to do something that is almost foreign to him as a coach and stick to his line combinations for the rest of the season. The Rangers season, and indeed the coach’s own future, may depend on his willingness to do just that.
Against the Hurricanes Monday night Tortorella reverted to Marian Gaborik-Brad Richards-Rick Nash once again being on the same line. While the line didn’t score its reunion coincided with the most assertive game Richards had played in weeks (including some exceptional passes that led to scoring chances) and saw Gaborik look much more dynamic than he had done for the majority of the season. Rick Nash was simply Rick Nash; as the game developed the big winger was consistently dangerous. These lines were left the same for last night’s game, and it was one of the most complete efforts we’ve seen all year. Plus, this mega-line scored.
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Marian Gaborik’s Rangers future on shaky ground
Marian Gaborik hasn’t exactly torn up the league this season. With a very up and down campaign the Slovakian winger’s future with the Rangers is very much up in the air, something that beat writer Andrew Gross has also speculated on this week. While Gaborik is among the Rangers’ leading point scorers his production, based on his age, expectancy, and most importantly his salary cap hit is underwhelming to put it mildly. When you’re pulling down $7.5 million per season you need to deliver more than a game here and a game there.
Gaborik is just one of the problems that this Rangers team is facing at the moment. The team in its entirety seems stuck in neutral unable to get sustained, consistent performances out of anyone not named Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, or Rick Nash. The reason this team is battling for its playoff lives is that the vast majority of the roster is under performing, and that begins and ends with Gaborik (and Brad Richards).
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Plenty of goal celebrations tonight please.
If you think the Rangers media/fan base is bad, you should have seen the stink kicked up by Jake Gardiner’s agent in Toronto. One naughty tweet (“free Jake Gardiner”) created a storm of speculation. Rangers’ prospects should relax knowing they don’t need to deal with the overzealous Toronto market.
Following on from his recent upturn in form, Michael Del Zotto is averaging a point per game against the Jets franchise. The Buffalo game aside (almost everyone stank), it will be interesting to see MDZ on the puck tonight and see whether he can continue to bring the level of poise and confidence he’s had recently. He’s an important part of this team, and when he’s on can make other players around him more dangerous.
Something about tonight’s match up; if the team can’t enter this game motivated, hungry, and with serious energy I’ll be slightly concerned. The Rangers and Jets are 8th and 9th in the standings, with the same points. There is a lot riding on this game. This is the kind of game where the Rangers better players need to step up.
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Del Zotto has been solid lately, much needed by the Rangers
It won’t be a popular topic with many Rangers fans, but Michael Del Zotto has quietly gone about playing some very good hockey since returning from his injury. This return to form is also coinciding with the Rangers recent strong run, which is no coincidence.
Del Zotto’s form has been overshadowed by Ryan McDonagh’s own return to form, Marc Staal’s injury, Rick Nash’s free scoring ways and the partial re-emergence of a powerplay that has begun to make a positive difference once again (finally?). Perhaps this is the best way for Del Zotto. He gets the opportunity to float under the radar, and have the attention focused elsewhere.
In not being blamed for every defensive error committed by the Rangers, and partially forgotten about on the offensive side of the puck, Del Zotto has had the opportunity to play himself back in to form in relative peace and quiet. While other players take the plaudits, Del Zotto has gotten better.
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Rangers and the Islanders played a tight game before Rangers won in OT
The Rangers beat the Islanders 2-1 in overtime, in a game that was a goaltending duel and in a game that was well contested by both teams. Both clubs had chances, both clubs played relatively well in all three zones but in the end it was the Rangers improving powerplay that was the difference. We discussed earlier today how the offense – but specifically Gaborik – had to step up over the next few games and an overtime, powerplay game winner is a great start. Rick Nash had another two point night, quickly becoming his standard. On to the goal breakdown.
1-0 Islanders; Michael Grabner
The first goal came as the Islanders cycled the puck along the wall when the puck eventually comes to Colin McDonald who immediately back hands it, throwing it up the middle of the ice where he finds a streaking Michael Grabner in the high slot. Grabner then wristed it top right corner past a helpless Lundqvist. Just before the goal Grabner had circled through the zone creating time and space for himself and was relatively open as he received the puck. The goal was typical of the Islanders’ start as they were looking to put the puck on the net at every opportunity and were constantly looking for traffic in front.
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The Rangers need Gaborik and the offense to help accommodate for Staal’s injury
It may seem an odd statement to make in light of an important defenseman being lost to injury, but the Rangers offense will need to produce consistently now more than ever. Despite the addition of Roman Hamrlik and the presence of multiple defensemen on the roster, the Rangers cannot reasonably expect to fill the void Marc Staal will leave. This is despite the presence of Henrik Lundqvist and the still impressive, remaining top four blueliners.
Any time a team loses a player of Marc Staal’s ability it’s going to hurt. When Staal went down the Rangers lost their best offensive blueliner (going by points alone), and lost a player that had returned to his All Star defensive best. Take an All Star who plays over twenty three minutes a game out of any line-up (except maybe the Blackhawks…) and you cannot reasonably expect the same performance level.
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Michael Del Zotto is needed now, more than ever.
The Rangers shoot for a season best fourth victory in a row tonight against the Islanders. Naturally, the Islanders love playing spoiler to their big brother neighbours so it should be a dandy. On to the musings.
Where do you stand on the visor front? I’m all for mandatory visors and always have been. Hockey is a fast and dangerous sport why wouldn’t you want to be as safe as possible? It will be interesting to see if Marc Staal changes his stance when (not if) he returns.
Hate to say I told you so: I said on Twitter that the Rangers should go after Roman Hamrlik before he was claimed, and I thought that before Marc Staal’s injury. He’s not what he was at 38 years old, but a rusty Hamrlik is better at this stage of his career than Stu Bickel, or more consistent than Matt Gilroy. Regarding the concern over his skating: Bickel can’t skate either and Gilroy’s skating ability hasn’t exactly helped him establish himself. So Hamrlik still represents an upgrade on the third pair, even with his limited skating ability.
One final thing on Staal; Assuming he misses the rest of the season, by the time next October comes around Staal will have missed a lot of hockey in the past two years. Does that affect him long term? It could go one of two ways; either he’ll benefit from having plenty left in the tank or he’ll have missed so much competitive hockey he’ll not be the same player he was.
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Lundqvist has room for improvement despite solid numbers
At the moment the Rangers are –to an extent– treading water in the standings, but luckily they are not far away from the right end of the Eastern Conference. With Rick Nash healthy and dominant and the Rangers generally getting healthier, things look a lot more promising than just a week ago; especially when you consider the record with Nash in the line up (10-5-1) as opposed to out of it (0-3-1). What the Rangers really need now, is their most important player to get back to his own lofty standards; time to find your old self Henrik Lundqvist.
The reigning Vezina winner was solid against the Sabres, clutch in the shootout and during the extended period shorthanded, but once again he let in goals that Henrik Lundqvist normally wouldn’t let in. Lundqvist hasn’t been bad, and his numbers are solid, but he’s not stealing points, robbing players or making saves when the Rangers need them most. In short, he’s not in his usual Vezina trophy candidate form. To be fair, it’s tough to ask a goalie to be Vezina caliber for their entire career, but it’s what we’ve expected, like Yankee fans and Mariano.
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