Is Derek Stepan underrated?
Welcome to the Musings. It’s a case of back to the future tonight as two rivals clash seemingly for the first time since time began. The boys have broken down the match up in depth and there’s not much you don’t know so I’m going to muse with you about non-Bruins/Rangers matters. Jump on in
Rant I: I’m beginning this week’s musings with a rant. Derek Stepan isn’t getting the due that he deserves. THN run a nice annual piece of alternative hockey awards and one category is ‘breakout player’. Stepan finished 8th, behind winner Nazeem Kadri, Voracek, Taylor Hall and Chris Kunitz among others. All the players had strong years but as they note, Kadri cooled considerably in April whereas Stepan got better as the games for the Rangers got more meaningful. Kunitz – while impressive – constantly had world class line mates while Voracek couldn’t help his team even get to the playoffs and Taylor Hall surely broke out a while ago.
Stepan would have been close to an 80 point season this year, was a league leader in game winners and plus minus all the while on a low scoring team without – for the large part – elite line mates and he’s twenty two. I think Stepan deserves more credit from league sources, but hey – maybe a Stanley Cup may help his rep. Rant over.
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It’s a good day to be a Rangers fan. Two wins on the bounce, two four goal games produced by the Rangers and suddenly a goaltender who was boasting about a lack of challenge has started to look rattled. Let’s get into the musings
I don’t care who you are – the 80’s Oilers aside – no player or team should ever provide motivation for the opposition. Holtby’s comments and Ovechkin’s comments have both being countered by improved play on the ice by the Rangers. Adam Oates cannot be happy with the way the series has begun to swing.
Obvious thought of the day: Derek Stepan is going to be a very rich hockey player sooner rather than later.
Is Stepan the first of the home grown kids – talking ‘tweener contracts – where Sather really doesn’t have the same power as he usually has in regard to controlling costs? With Richards clearly in decline (despite the occasional production recently, Stepan is an absolutely critical Ranger long term given the way he is developing.
Derek Stepan has four game winners in his last nine goals. Please remember this young man is just twenty two.
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Ryane Clowe appears to be back tonight.(Photo: AP)
There has been a lot of discussion about who the Rangers should put on the bench when their injured players return to the lineup. On Saturday, we saw Chris Kreider and Kris Newbury sent to the press box when Derek Dorsett and Brian Boyle returned from injury. Today, it appears that Arron Asham will be scratched in favor of the returning Ryane Clowe.
Many are in the belief that Boyle should never have played, and Kreider should still be in the lineup. There’s a good argument for it, although I wholeheartedly disagree with that sentiment. Boyle was the best face off guy on this team during the regular season and is one of the most important penalty killers. In a series that has been decided by special teams, the Rangers need their best PK guys.
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I still think he plays tonight (AP Photo).
Chris is unavailable to do the musings today, so you’re all stuck with me. The Rangers have had four days off between the last game of the season and the first game of the playoffs, and we’ve been getting a little antsy for some hockey. It’s actually a little funny that the Rangers got four days off in a row, as the schedule seems to never favor them at all. This time around it did, and it gave Marc Staal, Ryane Clowe, and Brian Boyle more time to get healthy.
Speaking of Staal, I know he and the Rangers said he isn’t playing tonight. But let’s look at it this way: He’s been skating with the team for over a week now, he’s been taking regular practices with the team, he’s been skating with the assumed Alex Ovechkin shadowers (note: Dan Girardi). The last time they were this far along with Staal was the Winter Classic, and Staal played that game. I think Staal plays, but the Rangers don’t announce it until warm ups so that the Caps can’t game plan for it. This is complete speculation on my part, but I think Staal is just itching to come back, and he’s an important cog in shutting down Ovechkin.
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By Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
It was a bumpy ride, but the Rangers sealed the deal on Thursday with a win over Carolina, and locked up a six seed with their blanking of the Devils. The Rangers rode a 10-3-1 run in April to leapfrog two teams and keep the Jets out. Now, it’s on to another date with the Caps in Washington in the first round of the playoffs. Since there’s a lot going through my mind, I figure a random Sunday thoughts post is fitting:
- The Rangers have played the Caps in the playoffs in 2012 (2nd round, won 4-3), 2011 (first round, loss 4-1), and 2009 (first round, loss 4-3). This year makes it three years in a row, four years in five, and each season since 2009 that the Rangers have made the playoffs. Think that’s a lot? Just wait until they are in the same division next year.
- The Rangers sure are hot at the right time. That 10-3-1 April launched them from 16-15-13 to 26-18-4, second in the Atlantic Division, and a +18 goal differential. They scored 51 goals in April, an average of 3.6 goals per game. That’s absurd. Read more »
Rick Nash needs to be better tonight.
Well, it’s another ‘biggest game of the season’. The Rangers need to win today in my humble opinion because the Devils would like nothing more than to play the role of spoiler on the weekend, so the Rangers don’t want to go into that game having to win. Anyway, on to the musings
I absolutely loved Kevin’s article about Chris Kreider the other day. It’s the wart on the face of the Rangers this year, for sure. I think Kreider absolutely has the ability to turn it around but at the same time I don’t think he’s untouchable any more – there’s just too much disappointment and doubt around his long term future. If the Rangers could add a major piece in a trade and Kreider had to be included I think they’d consider it now, whereas as recently as pre-season he was untouchable.
John Moore I: I’ve liked him as a prospect, was pleased he was grabbed from Columbus and he’s justified my excitement since being a Ranger. There’s so much to like about his game. While it’s early I think a full training camp and a lot of teaching and he could play up to his draft status. Columbus will regret this one.
Moore II: I think Moore’s play will also have had a huge influence on the Rangers draft day thinking. I think they may have looked to a defenseman first (and still might) but his play may allow the Rangers to go for a skilled forward or a physically imposing player instead of a blueliner.
Just a thought: If the Rangers win out to get in, has Brian Boyle played his last game as a Ranger?
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This is not how the Rangers have successfully developed prospects in recent years
The Rangers’ recent success has made Chris Kreider a forgotten man, but the handling of Kreider has been the most disappointing aspect of the 2013 season.
You can’t blame the 21-year-old for hitting a bump in the road, but the organization’s treatment of its prized winger has been a mess since the season-opener. Kreider got off to a miserable start with the
Connecticut Whale Hartford Wolf Pack, where Kreider was asked to begin learning the Rangers’ system at the sacrifice of his offense. He posted just five goals and seven assists in 34 games and was struggling on both ends of the ice.
But Kreider was still handed a job out of training camp because the Rangers were very short on forwards and because, in case you forgot, he scored five goals right out of college for the Blueshirts in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This raised so many eyebrows that Chad Kolarik was rumored to have requested a trade due to this decision.
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Rick Nash needs to find twine again. Starting tonight.
It’s a game day. It’s the Florida Panthers who always seem to trip up our boys in blue. If ever there was an occasion not to play down to the level of your opponents it’s tonight. Let’s jump into the musings.
Rick Nash needs to be better. The past few games – starting with a few turnovers against the Islanders – he hasn’t been that dominant forward we’ve enjoyed for the most part of the year. This is the time of the year you need your best to be your best. That said, I think we see a strong game from Nash tonight.
For those of you that haven’t seen it, this is a nice little article on Lundqvist, on TSN. Just shows even without being a particularly old goalie, how much respect Lundqvist carries and what kind of impact he’s had on the league. There are probably many league goalies that look to The King for tips.
This time of the year, it’s about results. These next three games are in my view not just must wins but should wins. A team that needs points with the Rangers’ talent level should be maxing points in this next three. In fact, if the Rangers play to their talent level (a big ask this season for sure) there’s no reason they cannot win at least five of six. Big ask, but doable.
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Howard Simmons/New York Daily News
- This is a rare trade where I think both sides have been pleasantly surprised with what they ended up with. Columbus fans seem giddy with what Marian Gaborik has done so far and almost in disbelief that the Rangers didn’t know what they had in him, along with Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky. On the flip side, few Rangers fans knew much of anything about any of Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore, but Brassard has already shown flashes that suggest he could single-handedly make up for a lot of Gaborik’s production, Dorsett sounds like he’ll be a perfect Blueshirt soldier whenever he takes the ice, and watching Moore skate has made it hard not to think of what Ryan McDonagh’s greatest quality does for him. It seems pretty clear that both teams came out of the deal better than they were before.
- Blue Jackets beat writer Aaron Portzline raised eyebrows when he wrote that Dorsett might have been the toughest player for Columbus to part with. It sounds a little surprising given the obvious skills of Brassard and the potential of Moore, but neither of those players had established themselves as go-to players for the Blue Jackets yet. Dorsett was an alternate captain with a decorated history of standing up for teammates, playing his heart out and doing generally everything that coach John Tortorella loves. Will he be the next Brandon Prust in New York? The comparison certainly seems to make sense. Read more »
Since Chris is on his annual pilgrimage to the US of A, you’re all stuck with me for this week’s musings. I know my questions won’t be anywhere near as poignant or provocative as my colleague from across the pond, but I’m gonna give it the old college try…
After not having seen the Maple Leafs since the middle of January, I’ll admit I was expecting more of the same from Toronto. I was incorrect. That team is a pain to play against. They run an aggressive forecheck and are deadly in transition. They are going to make someone’s life very difficult in the first round. As long as their goaltending holds up…
Torts shuffled the lines around big time last night. While I really enjoy seeing the Nash-Stepan-Cally line together, I understand Tort’s thinking. The Phaneuf matchup was killing that line and Tort’s needed to give Toronto a different look. I wasn’t crazy about any of the specific lines he created, and since the Isles don’t have a shut-down number 1 d-man, I’d expect more familiar line combos come Saturday.
I know Hags hasn’t fully cemented himself as a top-6 player just yet, but even when he’s moving up and down the lineup, I think it’s a waste to play him with Boyle or Pyatt. Read more »