NHL: Metropolitan Update, New York Rangers
The New York Rangers finally appear to be on track. With a new head coach in Alain Vigneault, it is not shocking that the club got off to a horrid start while adjusting to the new system and overcoming injuries to star players like Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin. While Hagelin is now back in the lineup, Nash and Callahan are still out, although Callahan appears set to return to the lineup this week.
Despite still battling the injury bug, part of the life that has returned to the Rangers is due to the emergence of young power forward Chris Kreider. The 22-year-old left winger has extraordinary talent and size, but struggled at the NHL level last season. The former Boston College star is showing his huge upside that many fans saw during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he made his NHL debut. So far this season in 6 games, Kreider has 2 goals and 4 assists. Sure it’s a small sample size, but all indications are that he has learned quite a bit after failing to make the big club out of training camp and beginning the season in the AHL.
The return of Hagelin has also paid dividends, as the 25-year-old swede has 2 goals and an assist in 3 games. Veteran center Brad Richards has bounced back this season after struggling towards the end of last season and even finding himself a healthy scratch in the playoffs under former head coach John Tortorella. While the 33-year-old playmaker has no goals and just 2 assist in his past 5 games, overall to start the season he has 5 goals and 5 helpers in 13 games. Top center Derek Stepan, who missed most of training camp due to a contract holdout, recorded a hat trick on Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. They were also his first 3 goals of the season. Hopefully for the Rangers this a sign of more good things to come from one of their top offensive players in Stepan.
New York’s major strength is in net with Henrik Lundqvist and on the backend led by Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto. While the blue shirts have allowed nearly 3 goals per game, this number will drastically go down as Lundqvist and the d-men continue to return to form.
While the Rangers are currently a game under .500 at 6-7-0, they have won 3 straight and as they return to health, continue to get back to a stingy defense with great goaltending as well as mastering Vigneault’s system, this team will climb the standings in the Metropolitan Division and in short time should be right behind and battling it out with the division leading Pittsburgh Penguins.