Lundqvist: must do better. (Bennett/Getty)
Henrik Lundqvist seems to have forgotten how to control rebounds, and his decision making around the net has been abysmal. Martin Biron can’t even stop a shot from the blueline. Every aspect of the Rangers (Brad Richards aside) has been awful to start the year, but it has to start and end in net, and the Rangers are nowhere near good enough in goal so far. It’s been that bad that maybe Glen Sather is reducing his next contract offer to Henrik Lundqvist as we speak.
To be fair, the Rangers defense has been almost as bad; coverage has been terrible, positioning and decision making even worse, and the Rangers goaltending tandem have had opposing players open in front and have often faced far too high a quality of shot. That said, it comes back to your goaltender giving you a chance and neither goalie has done that so far.
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McIlrath is one of several prospects that may be considered soon
The Rangers entered the regular season with multiple inconveniences behind them, so the horrid start to the regular season does come with some sort of asterisk attached to the team record. With a long road trip, multiple key injuries, a bloated (but necessary) preseason roster, and a new system all to deal with it is clear to see that the Rangers are well behind the eight ball four games in.
Despite all the issues Alain Vigneault and his team has had to deal with, and despite it being four games in, there has been no sign of progress and many of the same players are making repeated mistakes. Is it too early for Alain Vigneault to make an example out of a player or two?
It just so happens that while the Rangers struggle so horribly at both ends of the rink, many Ranger prospects (deemed not ready for the NHL) are off to terrific starts to the season down in the AHL. Danny Kristo has five points in three games, seven shots, and two powerplay goals already.
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MDZ: time to be a difference maker
One game does not a season make. That is why the Rangers enter tonight’s game with plenty of reason for optimism. On the flip side, your boys got some making up to do.
I want to see Michael Del Zotto start to impose himself on games more. He has the talent to be a top pair defenseman and is more talented than a guy like Dan Girardi but does he have the decision making and will to be more consistent? I’ve said it before but this is such a pivotal year for MDZ.
Speaking of Dan Girardi – not many Rangers (your King included) have yet to distinguish themselves this season but Girardi has had a particularly sloppy start. Several turnovers and he’s been caught out of position often. The Rangers need more from Girardi.
Keeping on the defensive theme – when you concede 14 goals in your first three games there are multiple issues to solve but Marc Staal is arguably the only defenseman so far that has been solid at either end of the rink. On paper the Rangers have good depth. On the ice, it hasn’t translated as it should. Is that all down to the new system being implemented?
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B-Rich has started well
Highlighted by his two goal performance in the impressive win over the Kings, Brad Richards has started the season well; which is a great sign for the Rangers. Having played a lackluster preseason – which came on the heels of his well documented (abysmal) 2012-13 season – Richards has begun to lay to rest the lingering concerns for this season.
He is skating well, looking to put the puck on net, and is getting separation from defenseman – something he did all too rarely last season. Perhaps most importantly is the lack of blind, drop passes on the blue line which were littered throughout his play last season.
While it’s only two games in to the new season – one of which was the sloppy Coyotes’ loss – the start laid down by Richard’s bodes well for the team. An in-form Richards would be hugely beneficial because, while Derek Stepan was much improved against the Kings (wasn’t everyone?), Stepan still has work to do to get back to his form of a year ago. If Richards can give the Rangers a strong year it’ll give the Rangers excellent depth down the middle.
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The Rangers were particularly sloppy against the Coyotes, were outdueled in net and on special teams. But no one will panic after one game that came on the heels of an awkward, disjointed preseason. That said there are a few players who are surely on shaky ground. One particular player who doesn’t figure to be part of the future is Taylor Pyatt.
Taylor Pyatt started his Rangers career in strong fashion and bookended last season with a solid playoffs, but Pyatt could be expendable on a team where cap space is a necessity. He cannot keep up on the ice and is as inconsistent now as the talented winger has ever been.
While Pyatt was not the worst Ranger forward on the ice on Thursday he was simply ineffective. No shots, no particularly strong shifts or physical play, nothing to demand the attention from the coaching staff or demand more ice time moving forward.
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How will Zuccarello fare this season?
Today it all begins. The Rangers open their season today as the season, tone setting, nine game road trip gets under way tonight in Phoenix. Let’s jump straight into the first Musings of the new season.
It will be interesting to see how Derek Stepan starts tonight. Will he be a step behind? Will the lack of reps, preseason games, training camp, and a new system implementation hurt him? He’s going to be under the microscope and has a lot of responsibility to shoulder.
A player that could thrive under Alain Vigneault’s (apparently) more open system could be Michael Del Zotto. Like so many Rangers, this is a big year for him. Is he finally going to put it all together and be a consistent offensive threat from the blueline? Or does he become expendable after this season? A good year from MDZ likely means an improved Rangers PP.
Most unpredictable player heading into tonight? Mats Zuccarello.
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Rick Nash is facing a huge amount of pressure. Starting Thursday
As the Rangers prepare to open their season on Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes, they will do so missing two of their presumptive top six forwards and with their de facto top line center behind the eight ball thanks to Derek Stepan’s (partial) holdout. Throw in the continued struggles of the likes of Chris Kreider and the less than inspiring preseason of Brad Richards, and the pressure on Rick Nash to lead an offense has never been greater.
Despite being part of a far more talented collective in New York, Nash wouldn’t even have faced this level of expectancy in Columbus, where he was the lone elite talent. In New York this season, the Rangers’ burly power forward is expected to lead a contender’s offense for the first time, and do so in a legitimate big sports market (sorry Ohio).
At the start of last year it was assumed Brad Richards was still a top line center. The excitement of Chris Kreider’s arrival was still very real, and the Rangers of course still had a guy called Marian Gaborik. Fast forward a year and the Rangers begin the season without Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin, Richards is a shadow of his former self, and Kreider is in the AHL.
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Could Hrivik be well placed to become a Ranger despite being in the AHL?
With the Rangers facing the reality of opening the year without Ryan Callahan for at least a game and Carl Hagelin for much longer – without even considering the lack of practice time for Derek Stepan – would the Rangers be best prepared leaning on the veterans to begin the year?
With Jesper Fast and JT Miller tentatively penciled in for the Coyotes game, the Rangers intend to employ two important pieces of their future, now. Neither player figures to be in the top six based on practices and the varied reports from the beat writers.
As we saw with Chris Kreider, if a prospect doesn’t deserve to be with the big club, he won’t be. Sometimes even when a prospect deserves to be (as could be argued with all of Oscar Lindberg, Marek Hrivik, Danny Kristo, or Connor Allen) it’s in no ones interest to see those players marginalised for the sake of numbers.
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Kreider would be best served with big minutes in the AHL
Depending on who you ask, Chris Kreider getting sent down to the AHL to begin the year is either the right thing to do or a terrible setback for both player and organisation. Everyone has an opinion on Kreider, indicating just how important his development is still deemed to be. Yes, the Rangers would prefer to have one of their prized assets ready for the regular season but if he’s not there it isn’t a disaster.
Given the way Kreider has been mismanaged in the recent past and given the relative depth the Rangers have with NHL veterans – for the short term – Kreider would be best served playing big minutes in an offensive role in the AHL rather than scrapping it out for unproductive ice time with the likes of Powe and Asham at the NHL level.
If Kreider starts the year in Hartford, he would surely be playing with the likes of Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast or Marek Hrivik, all offensive players at that level and all likely to produce offense for the Wolf pack. Confidence and momentum are key considerations for a prospect and Kreider would be far better served being placed in a position to succeed and built up slowly.
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The Rangers preseason means nothing. Bring on Thursday.
In another one sided preseason game, the Rangers were out of luck in Las Vegas as they lost 5-1 to the LA Kings including conceding the first goal inside 15 seconds. Jon Quick made 22 saves while the Kings scored two goals on the powerplay.
On a night of few bright spots, JT Miller continued to play catch up after missing preseason time as he scored the Rangers lone goal. Given his pro experience and strong play in the preseason Miller is a strong candidate to be one of the kids to stick around to start the season. At the very least Miller has made plays been noticeable and used his body effectively. The two goals in three games are almost a bonus.
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