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Mats Zuccarello’s response to his healthy scratch against Philadelphia has been nothing short of immense. At the time, Zuccarello was stumbling through the season doing nothing to warrant an extended future with the Rangers. Alain Vigneault was fully justified in removing the little Norwegian from the line-up when he did.
Since the 2-1 loss to the Flyers on the 24th October, Zuccarello has routinely flashed his high-end skill, perhaps encapsulated best by his perfect pass for Derek Stepan’s goal against the Penguins. Not many players would have tried that pass, let alone execute it so perfectly (the weighting of the pass was literally perfect for Stepan to skate to and roof past Fleury.)
With eight points in his last eight games Zuccarello has shown previously unseen consistency as –even accounting for the three assist splurge against the Hurricanes– he has only been held off the score sheet twice over that time frame. Not all is perfect though.
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The Rangers faced a ton of adversity, a fierce rival with a new star acquisition and the pressure of facing up to back to back defeats and yet, they found a way to win. Do not underestimate how much the victory on the Island could mean to the season as a whole. Musings time!
It’s amazing how perceptions can change after one good win.
So many players’ games have improved over the past three games. All of a sudden a previously invisible Mats Zuccarello looks relevant, energetic and back to being difficult to play against. Benoit Pouliot looks like he can play too.
Speaking of Pouliot; against the Isles he showed why he was a promising pick up. The dude has serious skill and can finish. It’s a huge season for him as if he can get some traction and find consistency he may finally stick with a team. He has to be much more consistent though.
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Given the current lack of offense and the injuries to key players, the Rangers may be very tempted to promote Danny Kristo from the AHL for a short term fix. Kristo is off to a very exciting start with six goals and nine points in his first nine games as a member of the Wolf Pack who, despite routinely losing players to the needy Rangers, have started out very well with a six wins in their first nine games.
Kristo has already grabbed four powerplay goals and has proven to be an offensive weapon for the ‘Pack. Kristo however is likely to be allowed to build on his fast start and deliver some extended consistency. Given what Kristo offers to a team there simply isn’t room in New York despite the injuries. With the progression Kreider and Miller have begun to show, and their extra familiarity with the organisation, they are in the box seat in terms of staying in New York and Kristo would be wasted as a bottom six guy in New York.
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Kreider is earning his ice time.
With all the additional ice time, Chris Kreider is getting better with every game. But he isn’t scoring. JT Miller is beginning to impact games in a multitude of ways. But he isn’t scoring. Generally, the Rangers aren’t scoring. However, despite this team being in a depressing state offensively, the coaching staff needs to stick with the younger players.
While sending Jesper Fast back to the WolfPack was the right thing to do, Miller and Kreider are getting good minutes and they are now showing clear progression. The Rangers won’t derail their season by playing these two promising youngsters – now they are showing some NHL readiness – but they may damage their own long term potential beyond this season if they revert to leaning on the veterans with limited upside.
Despite some indifferent starts, the Rangers can still be excited at the long term potential of their top nine forwards. With Carl Hagelin’s return and with Kreider, Miller, Derick Brassard, Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan’s presence, the Rangers have an excellent young core to build around Rick Nash. It may not be the most overly skilled top nine but there is still a nice balance of skill, speed and work ethic. You live with the growing pains.
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AV would not have anticipated this start. At All. (Andy Clark/Reuters)
Instantly discount the idea of Alain Vigneault being in danger. The Rangers Head Coach isn’t going anywhere. Not unless the underperforming New York Rangers go on an almost season long losing streak and even then, six months into a five year deal, a change in leadership would be an extreme measure. So with the assumption that the coaching staff are secure in their jobs, changes need to be made elsewhere.
Almost every single Ranger is playing horribly. While the Rangers improved against the Flyers, they still lost to a team that was 1-7 and arguably in a bigger mess than themselves. Not a single defenseman has lived up to their billing or contract. The offense – save for Brad Richards – has been invisible. At this stage, while still early, the Rangers will need to begin to think about the season as a whole.
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Well, now that the Rangers roster looks more like an AHL club, tonight’s game is a sure fire win, no?
This is a quick Musings, and a pretty negative one generally. Buckle down folks. Here’s hoping better news arrives tonight!
Cam Talbot. How he deals with the expectancy and pressure tonight will be very telling to his potential. He doesn’t have the safety blanket of a guy like Lundqvist to lean on. He has to play well. There is no NHL experience in net tonight. That’s perhaps a huge slice of unnecessary pressure on his shoulders.
When was the last time an NHL club started a game with both netminders dressed having zero NHL experience?
Ryan Callahan aside, three of the four other presumptive top forwards for the Rangers – Nash, Stepan, Brassard – are all goal-less as we head toward November.
Seven games in to the season and only seven players have more than one point for the Rangers heading in to tonight. That my friends, is abysmal production.
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Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News
For a team that is looking to contend and for a team with a boatload of injuries and players struggling to find form, waiting for a player to find his groove isn’t a particularly appealing option. As such, Mats Zuccarello has found himself on the slippery slope to the fourth line. Somewhere where small, skilled, defensively challenged players go to die.
So far, Zuccarello has been terrible for a team that has been terrible. For a team absent of arguably their best three wingers, the fact Zuccarello has fallen so far so quickly and contributed nothing in the interim is troublesome. He has received the ice time (over 16 minutes per game), he has had opportunities – if you can call one shot per game sufficient opportunity – but has failed to produce whichever way you look at it.
He’s not the only one struggling, but he’s one that was expected to build upon his successes last year.
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It’s always easier to write the Musings after a win. Last night was a huge relief to many Rangers fans so let’s talk about it.
John Moore: If Moore continues with performances like last night’s against the Capitals, then he could quickly go past Michael Del Zotto in the pecking order. A quick release, a good overall game and solid defensively, Moore still has a ton of upside to be explored. His skating is very good and his upside is exciting. You get the feeling he could prosper under Alain Vigneault.
Mats Zuccarello is a very good hockey player but he’s surely on shaky ground as a Ranger. Yes, the season is but six games old but he’s brought next to nothing to the table, and that’s despite being on a scoring line. He’s averaging close to 17 minutes a game which is plenty. He’s not even averaging a shot/game at this stage. If he’s not producing give a prospect those 17 minutes per game.
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Dan Girardi has had an atrocious start to the season but yet is one of the key players the Rangers will have to rely on to turn their difficult start around. While plus/minus is not a particularly accurate statistic, his minus 7 rating is a bad indicator and Girardi’s decision making, positioning and overall game thus far have been far from his usually consistent and reliable standards.
The Rangers have appeared all at sea in their own zone so far this season but a quick turnaround from Dan Girardi and in net, Henrik Lundqvist would see fortunes quickly reversed. Perhaps no two players can individually aid the team more, immediately. With both All Stars in poor form the Rangers have required help in other areas and have failed to receive it (goodbye Martin Biron).
Girardi should be motivated. With Girardi approaching unrestricted free agency, a bad season from the veteran blueliner – and subsequently the Rangers overall – could see the long term marriage come to a separation next summer. Prior to this season Girardi stood to command a significant raise on his current $3.4m salary (3.325 cap). Defenders that can play twenty five minutes a game, play physically and chip in twenty to thirty points a year can command quite the financial return on the open market.
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Now the Rangers called up Miller he needs to be used properly
While it is anything other than ideal that the Rangers are still without Rick Nash or any semblance of self-confidence, the promotion of J.T. Miller to the Rangers gives the club a chance to let the kid succeed.
Miller comes to the Rangers in great form (4 goals in 3 games with Hartford), and likely brimming with confidence. The Rangers welcome Miller, desperate for someone to step up at both ends of the rink, and –although currently slated for the 4th line– there is an opportunity for top six minutes for the taking. It is in the Rangers best interests that Miller develops well. Now is the time to give him that chance. If they are not going to leave him to develop with the Wolf Pack, then give him major minutes.
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