In sports, any loss is bad; you never want to come out on the short end of the stick. But when that loss comes in overtime of game five of the Stanley Cup Final, the pain is almost unbearable. This season, the New York Rangers look to put that loss behind them and go all the way.
The New York Rangers went on a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final last season and brought fans to the edge of their seats. This season the team seeks to return to the Final and accomplish what it couldn’t last year: Win. It. All. With the core of the team returning, key free agent signings and up and coming prospects, the New York Rangers are primed to get back to the Final and bring the cup back to New York City.
Alain Vigneault has coached the Rangers for one season and has proven to be the right choice to lead the team. He saw what kind of team he had and installed a system that utilized the team to its strengths. Players like Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and Ryan McDonagh benefitted heavily from Vigneault’s style. Hagelin, Kreider and Zuccarello were using their speed and McDonagh’s potential on the offensive end of the ice was also realized.
Vigneault and his assistant coaches Scott Arniel and Ulf Samuelsson have been calm and steady influences behind the bench for the Rangers. Players are no longer scared of mistakes in fear of being sent to the minors or benched.
Despite some questions down the middle of the ice, the Rangers are set to enter the 2014-15 NHL season with an impressive group of forwards. Some old, some new and some looking for a one last chance to prove themselves.
With the unfortunate injury to Derek Stepan, the Rangers will start the season with an interesting group of centers. Derick Brassard and Dominic Moore were already locks for the team. 2010 first round draft pick J.T. Miller has also made the team due to a great training camp and showing great impressive improvement during the preseason. But wait, aren’t there four lines in hockey, shouldn’t there be four centers? And yes, that’s true. Enter Martin St. Louis.
St. Louis sparked the Rangers during their playoff run and was a big reason they made the Stanley Cup Final. He spoke to Vigneault about it and tried it out during preseason. The experiment seemed to work well for Vigneault and it now appears that St. Louis will start at center for the New York Rangers and continue to play there until Derek Stepan returns from injury. St. Louis has never played center in the NHL, so this will be an interesting story to follow in the early part of the Rangers season.
As for the left and right wings, the Rangers have great depth and are entering the season with solid wingers. Many familiar faces will be back to play on the wings for the Rangers including Nash, Kreider, Hagelin and Zuccarello, who are all impressive players. There will also be some new faces on the wings for the Rangers this season.
Ryan Malone is one of the new faces that will be on the Rangers this season. He is coming off a buyout from the Tampa Bay Lightning due to him being arrested on DUI charges due for cocaine possession. Rangers General Manager Glen Sather has chosen to give Malone a chance to play for his team. Malone showed flashes of what he could do in the preseason by scoring two goals, but depth on the wings may force him to be the extra forward.
Free agent signing Tanner Glass also seems to have secured a fourth line role.
Rangers prospect Jesper Fast, who was picked 157th in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, made the team out of training camp. After a strong preseason showing by scoring three goals he convinced Vigneault that he deserved to be on the team. He will most likely slot in on the third or fourth-line due to his defensive play. His offense still needs a little work, which is why he may not see many top six minutes this season.
Kevin Hayes was signed as a free agent during the offseason. He spurned the Chicago Blackhawks, who drafted him in the first round of the 2010 Entry Draft. The Rangers offered him a shot to start if he proved himself during preseason and training camp and Hayes did exactly that. Although he didn’t have any flashy plays, Hayes proved himself as a solid player. The fact that he can play center as well as on the wing influenced Vigneault’s decision to include him in the opening night roster.
Perhaps the biggest addition on the wing is the Rangers third round draft pick, 80th overall from the 2013 NHL Draft, Anthony Duclair. He scored 50 goals last year in juniors and added 49 assists for a total of 99 points. Duclair showed how much of an explosive player he can be. He led the Rangers with five points during the preseason and scored some highlight reel goals. Duclair will start on a top six forward but will need to prove himself.
DEFENSEMEN & GOALTENDING
Ryan McDonagh, who was just recently named the 27th Captain in New York Rangers history, is the bonafide number one defenseman for the Rangers. His defensive abilities are second to none and his offensive ability started to come to light last season under Alain Vigneault. He will be a Norris Trophy candidate for the rest of his career. Dan Girardi will continue to be the team’s second best defenseman on the team and will shut down top players along with McDonagh.
Marc Staal will have a new partner on defense this season since Anton Stralman left for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Dan Boyle, who was signed as a free agent, has been a great defenseman throughout his career for the Lightning and Sharks. He has a booming slapshot that he can unleash from the blue line at any time. Look for Boyle to quarterback the Rangers first powerplay unit this season, score some big goals and provide great defensive play.
Kevin Klein and John Moore will continue to provide solid third pair defense and will play smart when asked to be on the ice.
Henrik Lundqvist has been the “king” since he stepped into the team’s starting goaltender position in 2005. He will continue to be a rock in net and put up great save percentage numbers as well as keep his goals against average way down. He is the best goaltender in the world and he will prove it again this season. Cam Talbot will also prove himself to be a worthy backup again and start around 20 games for the team to give Lundqvist a break during the long season.