Found September 11, 2013 on oddmanrush.ca:
This 2013-14 NHL season preview features the New York Rangers. Having made a huge splash acquiring Rick Nash, the Rangers had very high hopes heading into the season. They managed to make the playoffs as the 6th seed, edging out the 9th place Jets by 5 points. Not what you’d consider “safe”. Once in the post-season, they narrowly defeated the Washington Capitals in 7 games, before the wheels came off in a 5 game loss to Boston in round 2. A season that began with hopes of a Stanley Cup parade down Broadway ended with a house cleaning behind the bench, as the team fired head coach John Tortorella. What went right in 2012-13 Henrik Lundqvist has been the backbone of this team since joining them 8 years ago and this past season was no different. He posted another Vezina calibre season with a .926 save percentage and 2.05 goals against average while playing in all but 5 games for the Rangers. By Robert Kowal (Flickr: Henrik Lundqvist) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons His first season in New York was a successful one for Rick Nash from an individual standpoint. He led the team in goals (21) and shots (176) while finishing second in points (42) in 44 games played. He was also a +16 while playing 2 seconds shy of 20 minutes per game. 22 year-old center Derek Stepan had a good rookie season, but an outstanding sophomore one. He led the Rangers with 26 assists, 44 points and a +25 in 48 games. He also played over 20 minutes per game, as he was used in every situation. After coming over from Columbus in the deal for Marian Gaborik, the enigmatic Derick Brassard finally showed signs of being the player that many thought he would be when he was drafted 6th overall. He posted 11 points in 13 games in the regular season and led the team in playoff scoring with 12 points in 12 games. The strength of the Rangers last season was 5-on-5 play where only Chicago and Pittsburgh had better goals for/against ratios than New York’s 1.30. They were also money in the bank if they got a lead. They posted a winning percentage of .857 when scoring first, good for second best in the NHL. In addition, they led the league in winning percentage when leading after one period with a .929 as well as when leading after two with a perfect 1.000. What went wrong in 2012-13 The Rangers expected, and needed more from top center Brad Richards all season. He followed up a very mediocre 34 point regular season with just 1 point and a -3 in 10 playoff games. It resulted in coach John Tortorella making headlines by benching the former Conn Smythe winner in the second round of the playoffs. By Resolute (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons Defenseman Marc Staal was on his way to a career season with 11 points on 21 games before a horrific eye injury sustained after being struck in the face by a snapshot. His loss was one the Rangers never could adequately fill and it had a ripple effect, causing Ryan Mcdonagh, Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto to play more tough minutes than they probably should have. After lighting it up in the 2011-12 playoffs, 21 year-old Chris Kreider could not find a rhythm all season and struggled to stay in the lineup. He managed just 2 goals and 3 points in 21 games as his usage fell to just over 10 minutes per game. There’s still lots of upside here, but this upcoming season will be an important one for his confidence. The Blueshirts’ power-play had a major power outage last season. They were in the bottom third of the league with a 15.7% success rate. So what did they do to get better? The major move this off-season for New York was firing coach John Tortorella and replacing him with former Canucks and Canadiens coach Alain Vigneault. He’ll bring a very different approach and more offensive style to the Rangers and players like Nash, Richards and Stepan should flourish under him. He likes leaning on his top guys a lot in offensive situations. Dominic Moore was brought in on a one year deal to try and provide some depth. He’s coming back to the NHL after taking time off following the tragic passing of his wife, and he’ll have little pressure to be a big contributor. Still, he skates well, brings tons of effort and is a solid penalty killer. Extremely useful player considering his cap hit. On defense they added Justin Falk from the Minnesota Wild. He’ll likely rotate with young John Moore in the 6th spot and provide minimal impact as Moore should eventually win the job full time. Player to watch Keep an eye on forward Mats Zuccarello this season. He had a slow start because of a contract dispute, but he can be a difference maker and the kind of player you need to win in the playoffs. He’s physical, has a mean streak and has enough ability to be a 25 goal scorer. He scored 15 points in 27 games (regular season + playoffs) last year and will likely be in much better shape having a full training camp this time around. They will make the playoffs if… It’s business as usual in goal with Henrik Lundqvist and he posts another vezina calibre season. They will miss the playoffs if… They can’t cut down on their goals against and get sub-par goaltending. Trade bait With 12 players becoming UFAs at season’s end, it stands to reason that someone will be moved before the trade deadline. However considering that the Rangers likely see themselves as a Stanley Cup contender, I can’t imagine any important pieces being moved. Rookie most likely to have an impact It’s doubtful any first year player will crack a lineup that’s really deep and fairly young. What should we expect this season? The Rangers have all the pieces in place to be an elite team. Lundqvist is the best goaltender in the world, Nash is one of the game’s premier power forwards, they’ve got an elite shutdown defense pair in Girardi and McDonagh and good leadership with captain Ryan Callahan. They hope that a new voice in the dressing room in the form of new head coach Alain Vigneault can finally get them over the hump and back to the Stanley Cup Final. Look for them to have some trouble out of the gate adjusting to a new system, but to really kick it into high gear around Christmas and be one of the league’s better teams in the second half. Prediction 45-29-8, 98 points, 2nd in the Metropolitan division, 3rd in the Eastern Conference The post 2013-14 NHL Season Preview: New York Rangers appeared first on oddmanrush.ca.
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