I’m a little surprised that only one person volunteered to do Three Rangers Stars with me and Kenny Albert this season. I’m not disappointed, but I thought you guys would have fun with this. If not, that’s OK by me. But in case you missed the invitation, if you’d like to select stars for any of the 82 games, or for a few or for several, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, if nobody’s interested, that’s perfectly cool by me.
Anyway, we’ll do predictions later today, and all the usual It’s Go Time! stuff, etc. On Friday we’ll have our first Live Chat of the regular season, noonish. Be there.
Here’s my column from lohud.com:
By Rick Carpiniello
GREENBURGH – There is no “pause” button in the NHL and there certainly is no “resume.”
You don’t just get to pick up where you left off.
So the Rangers hit “restart” Thursday night in St. Louis: Game 1 of what they hope, like last season, will be 107, or so.
What they did in 2013-14 when they made an unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Final was difficult. To do it again will be more difficult.
“I think (the experience) is going to help us,” said Henrik Lundqvist. “We’re coming into this year with a fresh mindset, not thinking about last year. We learned from it and we appreciate it, but now it’s time to move on.”
When the Rangers went to the Eastern final in 2012, after a shocking 109-point season, they learned quickly the next year how hard it is to repeat. They finished sixth in the lockout 2013 season, a point ahead of the eighth-place Islanders and got bounced (literally at times) in the second round by Boston.
Coach Alain Vigneault knows it, too, having reached the Cup Final twice in the last four seasons. In 2011-12, his Canucks, coming off the Cup Final loss to Boston, piled up the best record in the league then lost to Los Angeles in the first round of the playoffs.
Four of the last 13 teams that have lost in the Cup Final have failed to make the playoffs the next year, eight of them failed to win a playoff series the next year, and only one got back to the Final — Pittsburgh, which then won the Cup in 2009.
“I believe we’re a good team, but I also know in the NHL there are a lot of good teams,” Vigneault said. “We’re going to have to battle to get into the playoffs. That’s how competitive it is.”
All the difficulties spelled out and understood, this Rangers team has every chance to be better than last season’s team, which finished fourth in the East.
They lost some good players, some depth guys.
But the Rangers replaced Brad Richards on the point with Dan Boyle, potentially their best pointman since, dare we say, Brian Leetch? They hope to replace his minutes with rookie J.T. Miller, who’s much quicker and more physical, and should more than replace his offense with a full season of Martin St. Louis, who still motors at 39 and could be their best offensive player since Jaromir Jagr.
Last year they didn’t have Chris Kreider at the start or Carl Hagelin, the two fastest players on the team if not the league, and they arguably didn’t have a healthy Rick Nash the entire season. Teenager Anthony Duclair flies, and hopes to stick around. Tanner Glass can skate, play tough and kill penalties.
The Rangers’ defense, with new captain Ryan McDonagh poised to be a legit Norris Trophy candidate, is still as good a top six as any in the league.
Then there’s this. The Rangers should be better because Lundqvist, who was so good in the postseason, will not, by any stretch of the imagination, have as inconsistent season as he did, the worst of his career.
It just isn’t going to be easy to do it again.
Photos by Getty Images.