Season preview: Rangers are better, but the road will be harder

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Don’t forget that we will have two new features for Three Rangers Stars starting tonight. One volunteer will pick his three stars to be included in my game wrapup. Still looking for volunteers so that I can line up at least one for each of the 48 games. If you want to volunteer, please email me at rcarpini@lohud.com and I will assign you a game.

Also we will unveil a poll alongside the “It’s Go Time!” post for each game which will allow you all to vote for the three stars (one vote per person, so wait until the game is over or almost over).

Last but not least, please follow me during games (and not during games) on twitter: @RangersReport.

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Here’s my season preview story:

By Rick Carpiniello

GREENBURGH – The Rangers are better today, and it’s virtually undeniable, than they were on opening night of 2011-12.

Adding power forward Rick Nash, even at some cost in terms of core players, and having Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin and Marc Staal right from the first faceoff gives the Rangers legit top-end talent and loads of speed up front, a solid young defense that is tough and mobile, and perhaps the best goalie in the world.

This to a team that nearly won the Presidents’ Trophy last year, won the East with 51 wins and 109 points and went to the sixth game of the Eastern Conference with an admirable, every-night, gritty style that many opponents were not interested in, or capable of, matching.

So there’s no reason to think they can’t do it again, or maybe take it to the next step and win it all, right?

Except the second act is always harder. It will take more to do just as much. And the Rangers know it.

“This continues to be part of the process and we’ll continue to build on what we did last year and the year before,” captain Ryan Callahan said. “Now this is just another step. We realize that we have to be better than we were last year and we expect that of ourselves.”

“Maybe people will expect more out of us,” added goalie Henrik Lundqvist. “The lockerroom, the guys here, will expect a good performance and we should expect a lot of (ourselves). But at the same time we have to stay humble and I think it’s going to be important how we handle that pressure, the pressure we put on ourselves and the pressure we’re going to feel from the outside.

“We had a great year, but we worked really hard for it. So we have to realize why we had success.”

There’s no way to say the Rangers were lucky, especially when their defense was decimated early on and a few players had down offensive years. But, in part, their record was a product of how they won – team-of-destiny sort of stuff – games that could have gone either way.

For example: Ryan McDonagh’s overtime winner with 1.8 seconds left in Calgary, Brad Richards’ goal with 0.1 seconds left in Phoenix, Lundqvist stopping a penalty shot at the end of the Winter Classic in Philly, Marian Gaborik’s power-play goal with four seconds left in OT in Boston and another with six seconds left in OT against the Islanders.

Then there’s this: The East was so close that, despite their record, they were just one point ahead of Pittsburgh, which didn’t have Sidney Crosby for a lot of the season; and six ahead of Philadelphis even though the Rangers won all six meetings; and seven ahead of the Devils, who were the No. 6 seed.

So it will be tough to repeat, maybe moreso in a 48-game, 99-day season.

“We like our group and we’re not surprising anybody this year,” Richards said. “We’re going to be a target, especially with the additions and the types of players we have, the year we had. So we’re not sneaking up on anybody. It’s going to be harder. We’re going to have to play better than we did last year to finish in the place that we did I think because everybody’s going to be gunning for us.”

One more thing to consider: Did the Rangers lose a golden chance? With Pittsburgh going down early in the playoffs, the Rangers faced the No. 8, No. 7 and No. 6 teams in the playoffs, and would have met the No. 8 seed from the West in the finals if they’d survived the Devils. That kind of roadmap won’t present itself again. Probably.

“I think it’s a huge point in how we handle ourselves with the expectations on us right now, just to make sure we go about it each day at a time,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “We had some good things go for us last year; a lot of things fell into place. But on the other hand I thought we handled a number of distractions we had last year, with our travel, the Classic, a lot of different things. If our guys keep their wits about themselves and go about it each day, we’ll find our way.

“It’s tough. The expectations – I hear people talking about us and what we are – they think we’re a shoo-in. This is a tough, tough league to win in. We need to be ready for all sorts of situations and hopefully we’ll handle it.”

Photos by Seth Harrison/The Journal News/LoHud.com.

 

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71 Comments

  1. I look for Gilroy to get a chance to play at some point this season and really shine. I also wonder which of the 3rd/4th line or AHL forwards will pleasantly surprise. Maybe J.T. Miller?

  2. SO EXCITED! Can’t wait to be at MSG tomorrow. You know the place will be rocking. I want to see a ranger put Cindy on his ass!

  3. James mcKnight on

    Long time suffering rangers fan here. I’m dinking this an off year and 8th place finish or no playoffs at all.

  4. Good morning, boneheads!

    Congrats to everyone, we made it!

    Well written, Carp. All I know is it’ll be fun. This team isn’t going to revert to to 2000, thats for sure. And I don’t think their identity changed that much from last year, losing Prust and Dubinsky notwithstanding. If the newcomers don’t perform to the levels this team requires, they won’t play. Someone else will come up from Hartford and step in. That’s how they’re groomed these days down in CT.

  5. This drives me nuts when I get to a name that I know perfectly well, and cannot recall it for the moment. I would really like to see former D man ( known for his beard) Paul Mara? and I would really like to see him on this team. He was the best I’ve ever seen at handling hot shot scorers that fly into his zone and the way he deftly skated with them shoulder to shoulder and never giving them a shooting position and eventually sent them away empty handed. It was a wondrous skill to behold, and it would be nice for some of our kids to learn the move. He used to drive the Russian kid who played for Rangers originally and then went to Montreal nutty,( another memory slip on a name
    drat it). …something ……..ov . You see….this is what happens when you get older..memory slips.

  6. Czechthemout!!! on

    Its a great day for Rangers hockey!

    Game 1 of what should be a very good year. Anything less than a finals appearence is a failure.

  7. This farce of a team – replete with no-talent clowns – is going down like the Titanic being struck by the Hindenburg.

  8. SufferingSince79 on

    I think the Titanic holds up a little better hitting the Hindenburg than the iceberg so all is not lost. BTW…that Hindenberg was one bad movie.

  9. Stranger Nation on

    another surprise of sorts last season was the steady play of MDZ and how, with Stawl healty, they have a legit top 4 backline since early 90’s IMO

  10. Tonight officially begins the “part of the process” quote tally. Cause you know what we get to do tonight kids? We get to watch our Rangers

  11. IBleedRangersBlue on

    FINALLY GAME DAY! i felt like this day was never going to come…this last week felt almost as long as the last three months! LETS GO RANGERS!!!!!

    Secured my ticket for tomorrow night! Cant wait!

  12. Excitement for game day tempered a bit by some bad news I got this morning. Nevertheless LGR!!!

  13. Sorry, Educator. I was there every single day. Keenan deserves to be a forever Ranger for winning that Cup … but he wasn’t the coach this guy is. Not close.

  14. Nice write-up Carp. I forgot about some of those great endings. I went & You-tubed them & now I’m even more psyched up for tonight!!

    LGR!!!!!

  15. LETS!!!!!!!!!!!! GO !!!!!!!!!!!!! RANGERS!!!!!!!!!!!!
    LETS!!!!!!!!!!!! GO!!!!!!!!!!!!! BONEHEADS!!!!!!!!

  16. You folks who speak of Emile Francis, and it is usually in a management context. He was a very good goal tender for back then. He didn;t get that knick name “the cat’ for nothing. I once saw a a breakaway on him by two Indianapolis Capitals players ( Ott Heller’s old gang) …who himself was a former Ranger…..and these two guys came in on him… modest speed, and carefully passing the puck to one another…side to side and Francis just stood there watching them and finally one lifted a shot high on him, going over his shoulder. Francis jumped straight up and blocked the shot, and then landed in a full ballet type split and was there when the next guy came in and shot the rebound at him and he scooped it up practically off the guy;s stick, and then bounded right up again on his two feet and sent it down the ice. You know, he made his own catching glove. He took a baseball first baseman’s “trapper”mitt and had sewed a cuff on it and that for all practical purposes became the catching mitt that we see today. He was playing for the old New Haven Ramblers ( Ranger farm club at the time). He was one scrappy guy.

  17. Fran I think Paul Mara is who your thinking of. I think the cat is my favorite hockey personality one of a few guys that has stories that keep me captivated as well as your yarns. I heard an interview with him last season and listend to it a couple of times.

  18. bummed about Sauer.
    while i would LOVE to see him back on the ice
    i just wish that at the very very least he is able to get through
    his days without too much difficulty.
    that’s the only thing i wish to hear for an update.

  19. Hey if there’s any readers of the blog from Albany, NY, I’m trying to get group of die hards together for future games…if you’re interested let me know.

  20. How about a sensible fourth place finish and decent shot for the cup. That’s what non ranger fans hockey writers do. Carp who exactly is your team anyway. We know you don’t root for the rangers. Is it the 1978-1985 New York islanders?

  21. iWicky "Rupp Yours!!!" on

    How the hell did ILB get ilb’s email?

    Predictably, hockey finally starts tonight and I work all night soooo LGD and LGR!!!

    Lastly, predictions for the conferences….

    Pitt
    Boston
    Washington/Carolina (sorry just can’t pick)
    Rangers
    Philly
    Ott
    Buffalo
    Montreal

    West

    Vancouver
    St. Louis
    LA
    Nashville
    Chicago
    Minnesota
    Detroit
    Colorado

    As far as the team goes, I think the pp (hehehehe) will be better and the pk will be worse initially at least. Prust will be the hardest to replace but the grit quotient will similar. I think you might see cally drop the gloves a time or two this season and rupp will have a couple more scraps. JT miller will eventually fill halpern’s spot and mcilrath will fill the Stralman/eminger spot (not necessarily this shortened season, but sooner than later).

    Ok, that all the catching up I can do

    Wooo hooo hockey, LGR!!!

  22. I think Carolina and Buffalo will replace Florida and New Jersey from last year’s list of playoff teams. Not even going to try to guess the rankings though. I do believe Rangers will win the division and we do have a better team than the Caps and Bruins for example so we should win the conference as well. I have to say that i will miss the feeling of being the underdog a great deal. It was fascinating to watch others see late goals/comebacks/saves come at incredible times of the game. This year we are expected to do it.

  23. Morganti just picked the Rangers for the Cup. Not too popular with the Philadelphia Comcast crew.

    HA HA HA.

  24. A Couple of new rules that the Rangers should be mindful of this weekend:
    1) you cannot close your hand on the puck in the defensive zone
    2) you cannot even think about touching Cindy Crosby as she is now protected by the new Cindy Laws

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