NHL PLAYOFFS 2013: New York Rangers – From contenders to underdogs.
As we get closer to the playoffs, IceNationUK will be taking a look at each team’s roster as they clinch a spot in the postseason.
Next, the New York Rangers.
The Rangers were supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender this season, dominant both up front, on defence and in goal. Boasting newly acquired sniper Rick Nash and fellow goal-scorer extraordinaire Marian Gaborik along with elite playmaker Brad Richards, a cast of strong complimentary forwards, a very strong defence corps and the best goalie in the league, the team basically had everything it needed to make a run for the top. And yet it didn’t happen. For whatever reason, things just didn’t click until the very end of the season, but this team was too good not to make the playoffs, particularly after a couple of deadline deals – getting Clowe and moving Gaborik for increased depth.
They went 3-4-0 in January, and 6-4-2 in February. Things didn’t look any brighter in March as they went 7-7-1, including a 3 game losing streak. Finally however, the team took off in April, just at the right time, going 9-3-1 and making a charge for the 6th spot in the Eastern Conference.
2012/13 Season Team Stats (to date):
48 Games – 26 Wins – 18 Losses – 4 OT Losses – 56 Points
Goals For = 130
Goals Against = 112
Goal Differential = +18
Home Record = 16-6-2
Away Record = 10-12-2
CARL HAGELIN – DEREK STEPAN – RYAN CALLAHAN
MATS ZUCCARELLO – BRAD RICHARDS – RICK NASH
TAYLOR PYATT – DERICK BRASSARD – CHRIS KREIDER
KRIS NEWBURY – DARROLL POWE – ARRON ASHAM
MICHAEL DEL ZOTTO – DAN GIRARDI
RYAN MCDONAGH – ANTON STRALMAN
STEVE EMINGER – JOHN MOORE
EXTRA: MICHEAL HALEY, MATT GILROY, ROMAN HAMRLIK
INJURED: RYANE CLOWE, MIKE SAUER, MARC STAAL, DEREK DORSETT, BRIAN BOYLE, JT MILLER
Derek Stepan has been a solid player each of his first two NHL seasons, but he really took off this year. He led the team in scoring, and dominated in shot attempt differential – though he was placed in offensive situations more often than not (close to 60% offensive zonestarts). Still, he made the most of his opportunity. Carl Hagelin continued to impress in his second NHL season, playing in all situations, and being dominant in shot attempt differential despite taking on the toughest competition of any Ranger forward. His top-notch skating ability surely helps with that. The captain of the team, Ryan Callahan, was his usual consistent self, putting up points at a familiar rate and playing heavy minutes in all situations.
Rick Nash, the main piece of last years arguably biggest trade, was obviously subject to much hype, being paired with fellow sniper Gaborik and playmaker Richards. Nash got off to a slow start, but eventually found his stride and by the season’s end was putting up points and goals at almost the best rate of his career, ending up second on the team. He was placed in prime offensive situations and made the most of it. Brad Richards still hasn’t found his full offensive stride as a Ranger, but that’s not to say he’s been bad for them. He dominates the competition in shot attempt differential (in nearly 65% offensive zonestarts), and is still capable of putting up points at a good rate. Mats Zuccarello stayed on in Europe longer than expected following the lockout, but upon joining the team has performed strongly. In 15 games he has 8 points, and whilst not a defensive player, he’s useful as a secondary scoring threat.
Taylor Pyatt is an OK player in limited minutes. He does give up a fair amount of shots at 5v5 and doesn’t offer PK ability, but he can chip in the odd goal and plays with a physical edge. Derick Brassard, acquired from Columbus in the Gaborik trade, has been fantastic for the Rangers, posting 11 points in 13 games and being a fairly dominant player against middling competition. The punch of Richards-Stepan-Brassard down the middle is pretty good. Chris Kreider was massively hyped coming into this season, expected by many to compete for the Calder Trophy after having a solid NHL debut in the playoffs last year. Yet he really struggled this year, both in the AHL during the lockout and in the NHL, where he has just 3 points in 23 games. He’s received some of the easiest minutes on the team and has struggled, and since his only value is scoring, he’s not really helping the team. Things aren’t looking good for Kreider, and time will tell if he’s really as good as advertised.
Kris Newbury is a quality AHL scorer, but has never really got it done at the NHL level. In a 4th line role he’s probably OK and not too much of a liability, but he doesn’t offer defensive skills so when he’s not scoring he’s not really doing anything. Darroll Powe has had a uniquely awful season – despite having shown some ability to score at the NHL level, he hasn’t registered a single point this season in 42 total games, and despite playing some of the easiest available competition has found himself outshot routinely. He does play a lot on the PK however, so his value is not quite nil. Arron Asham is one of the more useful facepunchers in the league, having the ability to both make and take a pass, and actually putting up some respectable point totals in years past. But he only has 2 points (both goals) in 27 games this year, and despite playing the easiest competition on the team does get slightly outshot at 5v5.
Ryane Clowe was in the midst of his worst offensive season in quite some time when he found himself traded to the Rangers, but he had an immediate impact. Unfortunately, he found himself injured, but he has 8 points in 12 games and seems to have refound his “mojo”. If he’s healthy in the playoffs, the Rangers will be all the better for it. Derek Dorsett also provides some ability when in the line up, giving gritty physical play and a small amount of offence, much like Asham used to. Brian Boyle has found himself out of favour much of this year, struggling to score – but does provide a defensive conscience and takes on tough zonestarts allowing the likes of Richards and Stepan to take on the easier minutes.
On defence, the team is usually led by defensive master Marc Staal. In 21 games he had an impressive 11 points, though wasn’t performing particularly well at 5v5, which might be due to rust after spending much of the previous year injured. However, he unfortunately found himself out again with a nasty eye injury, and he is likely out for the year.
Instead, the top pairing duties have fallen to Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto. Girardi is gaining some traction as one of the league’s top two-way defenders, taking on the toughest competition on the Rangers d-corps. He does get outshot, but given the heavy minutes played it’s understandable. Del Zotto continues to blossom into an effective offensive defender, putting up points at a nice rate. Unfortunately this year he’s been a liability at 5v5 despite playing pretty easy minutes. Not great for someone being relied on to play big minutes.
Ryan McDonagh is perhaps the best young defender on the team, putting up points whilst playing little on the powerplay (very impressive) and playing heavy PK minutes. At 5v5 he plays tough minutes and dominates the competition. Anton Stralman has struggled offensively this year, despite playing easy minutes, but has been pretty dominant in terms of shot differential, so it’s probably more a matter of bad luck than bad play.
Steve Eminger is the veteran presence on the defence, but isn’t particularly effective. He gets dominated by easy competition, and doesn’t play heavy minutes. He’d be better suited to the 7th defenceman role. John Moore, also acquired in the Gaborik trade, has been quietly effective in depth minutes, dominating easy competition. It would be nice to see him put up some points, but as it is he could probably handle tougher minutes and not being a liability.
In goal, Henrik Lundqvist, who ran away with the Vezina Trophy last year after several years of coming close, is the unquestionable starter. He had a poor start to the year, but along with the rest of the team picked it up towards the end to put in above average stats of 24 wins in 43 games, 2 shutouts, a .926 SV% and a 2.05 GAA. “King Henrik” is as vital to the team’s success as anyone. Backing him up is Martin Biron, a longtime NHLer who is a highly capable goalie, himself having seen much time as a starting goalie in the league. He doesn’t get much action behind someone of Lundqvist’s quality, but when he does step in is usually equal to the task.
STAR PLAYOFF PERFORMER
I’m going to go with Nash here. He has only 4 career playoff games, having played most of his career with the lowly Blue Jackets, but he’ll get a real chance to shine here with the Rangers. I don’t consider him to be a franchise player, more a top quality complimentary player, but I have a feeling Nash is going perform really well this postseason. He’s been getting better all year, and will likely relish this opportunity.
Given how they started the year as one of the favourites for the Cup, but then struggled to even make the playoffs, it’s difficult to decide how the team will do this year. I could see them getting into the second round, but they’ll really have to catch fire to make it past some of the stronger teams in the East.