Season preview: Five questions

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Grittier, or prettier?

The Rangers lost some of their grinding personality in Brandon Prust, Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko, and a big part of their game was battling for every inch of ice. Some of that has been replaced, and Rick Nash will use his big body, too. But this team is very fast now, and maybe will play more of an up-tempo “Safe is Death” style of game that John Tortorella used in Tampa Bay.

What about the power play?

It was a putrid 15.7 percent effective last year (23rd in the NHL) and hasn’t really been good since Wayne Gretzky retired. To be fair, it won a couple of playoff games for them … but it lost a few, too. Nash should certainly help, but the Rangers’ problem is mostly about movement, because you have to move your feet to move the puck. There’s no reason this can’t be fixed, but will it?

How many games will Henrik Lundqvist play?

He played 62 of 82 last year, his best in the NHL, winning the Vezina Trophy with 39 wins, eight shutouts and a 1.97 goals-against average. Martin Biron gave him plenty of rest as one of the league’s best backups. But in a 48-game sprint, couldn’t Lundqvist play 38 or 40 games? He’d want to. With those games played in 99 days, maybe he won’t.

Which Marian Gaborik do the Rangers get?

The one who scored 42 goals his first year in New York, the one who scored 22 his second year, or the one who scored 41 last year. Gaborik has grown as a player, and the lockout gave him time to recover from off-season surgery on a shoulder he hurt in the first round of the playoffs – though he toughed it out through the end.

Who plays on that first line?

There will be times when Nash, Brad Richards and Gaborik are on the ice together. More often, probably, they will split, with Gaborik playing with Derek Stepan and Nash with Richards. That leaves first-line minutes for Ryan Callahan or Chris Kreider or Carl Hagelin … and that means one of those three plays on the third line.

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56 Comments

  1. I don’t think this team is grittier. I admit I haven’t seen some of the new guys play, just going by what I have read and what I know we lost. I think we will be better though, we won’t rely on “grit”at as much because we have more skill.

    Power play will definitely improve. I feel like Torts has already addressed it more than last year. Nash plus an improved DZ will guarantee it.

    Henrik? Not worried. Only a freak accident will slow him down.

    Gaborik is rested, mentally and physically. He won’t have as much exterior pressure this year.

    First line? They better worry about all three lines this year.

    Yep, I’m setting myself up for disappointment, but that’s what preseason is for.

    =================================================

    It is late and I am bored. Someone said that last season was as compressed as this one so I did some counting…….the last 48 games of the Rangers 2011 season were held between Dec 28 and April 7. I get 102 days counting the day of the game. Close, I guess.

    http://www.convertunits.com/dates/from/Dec+28,+2011/to/Apr+7,+2012

  2. Can’t say this team isn’t better in all aspects. Losing Prust was huge, but guys like Prust burn out quick. Imagine Hags on the PK? The Prust loss could be a chance for others to setp up. Rupp is healthy. Asham is a tough guy that can actually play a competent NHL shift. I love the team on paper. Losing Dubi & AA? Center depth is important. But Rick Nash will be the best forward to ever play for the NY Rangers. Write it down. He will lead the league in goals this year. The NYR are in great shape. The lockout played right into their hands. Gaborik missed ZERO games.

    Buckle up Rangers fans.

  3. I can’t wait to see this team get some chemistry. Oh, and good for the nhlpa/nhl for letting Redden and Gomez get bought out immediately. Sather didn’t pay for his mistakes, why should they?

  4. specialty teams will be pivotal this year. pp must upgrade and pk cant drop off from last years. that in my mind two biggest keys.

  5. cw – i really hope so!

    I think the PP sounds good on paper, but these guys have to work at it – last few seasons they have been very passive with little and slow puck movement and hence not many goals. If they keep moving their feet and the puck and create those openings we have the guys who can score, its not a bomb from the point and a scramble in front like some teams are, it will be a finesse play to create a goal or a clever deflection. They have to use the threat of Nash or Gaby’s shot to draw the defenders out of position to open the lanes for the other shooters and make sure there is always a body in front for screens and rebounds.

  6. Also – credit to Slats: DZ is signed (with a relatively team-friendly cap hit) and has had a full week at camp. PK Subban is sat on his derriere at home, as is Jamie Benn

  7. cw – i really hope so!

    I think the PP sounds good on paper, but these guys have to work at it – last few seasons they have been very passive with little and slow puck movement and hence not many goals. If they keep moving their feet and the puck and create those openings we have the guys who can score, its not a big shot from the point and a scramble in front like some teams are, it will be a finesse play to create a goal or a clever deflection. They have to use the threat of Nash or Gaby’s shot to draw the defenders out of position to open the lanes for the other shooters and make sure there is always a body in front for screens and rebounds.

  8. carp – no idea why that one is awaiting moderation, no swear words or anything remotely controversial

  9. Paul in sunrise on

    I have a take on the whole lockout. I believe that the lockout actually hurt the development of the Kreider. Specifically since Gaborik was allowed to recover and will return to first/second line the Kreider Will be immediately placed on the third line and miss out two months of development playing with Richards for Stepan. Therefore while the lockout was great for Gaborik it might have hurt the development of the Kreider. The same way that the absence of Staal Required McDonaugh to step up and improve the absence of Gaborik would’ve done the same for Kreider early part of the season.

  10. Stanger Nation on

    PK will be more than fine with Hags over Prust – probably better – didn’t think Prust was great on PK, but anyone next to Boyle on the PK seems to play well. Wonder if Boyle reverts back to prior year scoring production with Hags paired up with him.

    Pyatt and/or Ashram will need to make up for the absence Feds/Prust grit & grind game. These two are bigger and experienced, time will tell if they are better and have more jam.

    Need defense men to be more offensive minded if they are to play Lightning speed game.

  11. Hags on the PK…so much speed! forces opposition to make faster decisions…
    If they stop diving to block shots…Hags could lead the league in SH goals…just sayiin’

  12. I really do miss Prust. Watching him beat up on -Steven- Brandon Segal made me remember how awesome that guy was/is.

  13. Cross Check Charlie on

    ” That leaves first-line minutes for Ryan Callahan or Chris Kreider or Carl Hagelin … and that means one of those three plays on the third line.”

    I think Cally is more suited to the third line because he’s the most defensively responsible of the three, but I think Torts will put him on one of the top 2 lines. Hagelin goes on the line Cally doesn’t. Torts will waste Kreider on the third line trying to make a scorer into Bob Gainey.

  14. I find the PK Slewfoot situation interesting…is there a consensus here about what you all think he’s worth? I can see his upside, but I don’t see him ever being an “elite” defenseman.

  15. I am with you about 90% there Charles in Charge. I agree that Callahan is a third line player because of his skill set but I just can’t see our Captain playing on the third line. I think that puts him on 1st/2nd line minutes. While I agree that Kreider may start the season on the third line, he has to move up. He has to be on one of the top two lines to make them an absolute scoring threat. Then Hagelin can move to the third line with Boyle and Pyatt and make that line fast and huge.

  16. PK is definitely an elite talent. Maybe not on the defensive end. He’s a heck of a skater and can score, meaning he would be a great D-Man to put on the point for the PP (even though Girardi has been shockingly good there). He’s a dirty player and can really rile up the other team as well. I think being on the ice with Prust will be very beneficial for him finally having someone to protect his jackwagon antics.

    The downside is I think he gets P-A-I-D (“that’s why my mom hates me” – Biggie). I don’t see him fitting the Rangers system and I don’t see him fitting our salary cap situation. Because PK is not going to play third pair minutes. He will play in the top four meaning he will bump Del Zaster because you can’t move McBust, Girardi or Stahl due to their defensive prowess.

  17. Stanger Nation on

    Kreider playing with 3rd line will teach him to more complete game (both sides of red line) and take pressure off him *having* to score goals if he played on first two lines. Now that is all on Nash as it should be.

    Kreider should see time on second PP unit, especially if Richards is playing point on first, so he will get his chances to light the lamp and put the biscuit in the basket.

  18. I’m not sure I agree with Callahan being a 3rd liner…29 goals isn’t really 3rd line production…just sayin’
    His is solid defensively but I consider him a solid well rounded player. He can pretty much do it all…

  19. You beat me to it, Staal…Any player who is capable of scoring almost 30 goals at 26 is not a 3rd line player. And if your team is so deep that you have to play him on the 3rd line, you better win the SC every year.

    On the grit part. They will miss Prust, no doubt….But the way this team plays is as much a function of its personnel as it is a function of what your coach demands. And while Torts will have more players to play an uptempo game, I doubt he will let them play “soft”…

  20. Here is what I am saying about Callahan on the third line. I have been saying it. We now have TWO legitimate lines that are scoring threats. Gaborik’s line can finally be what he needs, a line that is built to feed him the puck in the slot and let him rip shots and score a ton of goals. He showed that he has *chemistry* with Stepan last season and with the addition of say, Hagelin or some other very fast skater on the opposite wing that line could be lethal. Callahan could work there as well. Just saying I think Hagelin is more suited to that role.

    Second line with Richards and Nash is going to be another lethal line. If you put Kreider opposite Nash I think that line could be our best scoring line. You have total threats across the board on that line. It will be near impossible for any team to stop them. Sure, you could put Callahan on that line to make them a bit more responsible defensively but…I just think, in my stupid opinion (and remember I don’t watch any of the games) that Kreider fits there.

    Which brings us to the third line and Callahan being the scoring threat on the line. We all know Tort love to roll out a few million line combos per game and swap who’s playing with a lead and who’s playing with who if we’re down so this is all basically a dumb conversation. That said, I just think Callahan on the third line extends our dominant, scoring threat lines to THREE instead of TWO.

  21. Stanger Nation on

    One observation of Cally in the practice aired this week was how much enthusiasm he had during the practice and what a great role model for the younger players – always plays hard, two way hockey player, gives it up for the team, and has fun doing it.

    the only thing I would change is his propensity to block shots – he is far too valuable to lose for an extended period for a broken bone in foot or hand.

  22. I think once Kreider gets more defensively responsible and can be trusted to play top 6, Hagelin will move to third line duties with added PK responsibilities.

  23. I think as far as line combos go, that’s something that will all fall into place. My early assumption is that Hagelin will produce and Kreider will be solid but not as deadly as he seemed in the playoffs last year (just the law of averages working themselves out)..Although you never know what can happen bc with the two of them playing strong, another top 6 forward could easily find himself playing 3rd line minutes if they struggle. That’s the Torts way.

    100% agreed about movement on the PP. However, I still think the smartest thing they can do this year is let Nash plant himself in front of the net. Especially with Richards on the point.
    His ability to play along the wall is noted but they havent had someone to do that since I can’t even remember and coincidentally that’s about the last time their PP was worth a squat.

  24. Cross Check Charlie on

    Re: grit

    I think (hope) the team played a gritty game because that was what the personnel dictated. Now with a faster guys I’m thinking they are able to open it up more because they have the skaters that can play that game.

  25. I also think Hagelin is a guy Torts can see in a lot of different situations because of his speed so you could see him on just about every line depending on the temperature of the team.
    Overall, I don’t think it matters which is considered “the first line” as long as both combos can produce consistently in a marathon season. The most important thing is that they all stay healthy..

  26. I think having 5 wingers who can play top 6 roles is a huge benefit and it will allow Torts to chop and change based on who has the “hot-hand” and if needed he can roll out a great defensive 3 with Boyle, Pyatt and Hags/Cally to shut things down and keep the puck

  27. Just gonna chime in about grit before I head out- The head coach knows what he’s working with. In his championship year in TB he had a roster pretty similar to this. Dare I say “a healthy mix” of scoring talent that could play physical as well as “blue collar guys” What you have to remember is that despite all the grit and the fight for every inch style, we’ve said it here 1000 times over the last few seasons- you need more than that or you wind up with a gutsy team that wears itself out because it doesn’t have the talent up front to take some of the pressure off. Injuries and Broadway flops aside, this may be the most complete roster we’ve had in quite a long time. So we just have to wait and see how the cards plays out. Looking at the schedule it’s not like they’ll wait long to be put to the test..

  28. Stanger Nation on

    Hags-Richards-Nash
    Gabby-Step-Cally
    Kreider-Boyle-Pyatt(?)

    those look pretty good IMO

    Throw in a very strong young D, a top tier goalie, and good coaching and I like our chances if we stay healthy – especially down the middle

  29. Asham isn’t slow. He hustles and grinds, and think he’ll try to step up to fill the Prust role. Problem is, he’s not very smart or emotionally stable. We’ll see.

  30. The only real issue for this team (“grit” means nothing) is the power play. If it’s as bad as it was last year, then the season will end as badly as it did last year.

  31. Agree that special teams is a key this year – especially with the shortened season and training camp. You are going to see a lot of lazy penalties early so PP and PK have to be spot on. The names on the PP don’t mean a thing if they are not going to get more shots on net (that’s On net, not At net) and create more traffic in front of the net (and not to the side).

    You don’t have to go that far back to remember when the Rangers PP was effective. They finished 8th overall in the 2006/2007 season. If they were that good last year, the Stanley Cup banner would be going up at the Garden and not the Staples Center.

  32. I wouldn’t get caught up in which line is considered the “first” line at this point. That’s really more of a concern for the opposition’s coaches as to which line they use their best shutdown players against or if a coach like go power vs power with his matchups.

    As for the power play, it would be nice for it to click at a higher rate than it has been but there isn’t a huge difference over the course of a 48 game season between a PP that clicks at 15%, 18% or 20%. Based on the number of power play chances the Rangers have gotten over the past few seasons, pro-rated to a 48 game season, you’d be looking at around 170 or so chances for this season. The difference between a 15% or a 20% PP is about 8 goals. As nice as it would be to say “well one of those 8 goals could be the difference between a win or a loss” that might be true. However, it’s equally possible those 8 goals could come in games where they make no difference on the outcome.

  33. Rangers actually had the 5th best PP in the playoffs last year (18%), better than their regular season %.

    Kings had the 12th best at 12.8%. Devils had a 15% PP in the playoffs.

    Then the year before Boston won with an 11% PP.

    More goals are always preferred to less goals, but the vast majority of the game is played at even strength where the Rangers did very well last year and conversely slumped during the playoffs. I’d rather them continue their strong play at 5v5/4v4 with a strong PK.

  34. Mornin to ya, Bonesters….and a happy coldish day it is here in unsunny Florida.

    I was taken by the little vocal guest speakers on TV yesterday in which they interviewed at length Shane Doan, who gladdened my heart to hear him say that he was pleased to be going back to the
    Coyotes ( and so was I). I was quite unimpressed by him in the playoffs last year, and on other occasions than that. I was concerned that mention had been made in some circles that Rangers might be making a big pitch for him and it occurred to me that they might do it at the expense of some of their promising youngsters. OK go ahead and laugh, but all I got to say is …phew!

  35. I dont know why Im dreaming about Jamie Benn but in my dream he was traded to the Senators…dont judge.

  36. So that would only be 1.2ish more wins. Interesting.

    I hope our PP and Even Strength goal scoring are consistent. That’s all I want. Don’t disappear in the playoffs.

  37. Not exactly, goals in GvT are a little different than team goals. It’s similar to WAR in terms of using a counting metric to capture a player’s value.

  38. Nice hockey talk, boneheads….

    Fran, you’re right about Doan….Apparently, he had very little desire to leave the desert. And, honestly, for the amount of money he was demanding I do not see the Rangers giving him contract anyway. One thing about Doan though…He is very well respected around the league. In fact, according to Brooks, it was Doan who convinced Bettman during their private meeting that players want the cap to be higher than $60M not because they are greedy, but because it allows them to stay with their teams and not having to move their families around….

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