In the regular season, the New York Rangers had the 12th-best record in the NHL of 45-31-6, earning 96 points. The Rangers finished second in the Metropolitan division but were 13 points back of the division-champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Of the 16 teams in the East, the Rangers placed 5th.
The playoffs are often referred to as the “second season” and in the case of the New York Rangers, this phrase certainly held true. New York looked like a totally new team in the postseason and made a shocking run to the Stanley Cup Finals. After winning back-to-back seven game series against the state of Pennsylvania, New York got past the Montreal Canadiens in six games after Carey Price sustained a series-ending injury in game 1. Although they were certainly hard done-by with three overtime loses in the Finals, the Rangers ultimately lost to the better team in the Los Angeles Kings in five games.
In an uncharacteristically quiet offseason which was headlined by the additions of Dominic Moore and Benoit Pouliot (and no notable subtractions), the biggest move came in the hiring of Head Coach Alain Vigneault, who was essentially swapped for John Tortorella. With Vigneault having a strong enough personality to handle the New York media and the ability to manage a star-studded lineup, the hiring looked like a fit on paper. If the Rangers could get the most out of its star forwards like Rick Nash, Brad Richards, and Derek Stepan, they had the defense and goaltending to be among the best teams in the East. A healthy Marc Staal would also be a major boost to the lineup.
- On a team that has elite point producers in Rick Nash and Brad Richards, it was the Norwegian- Mats Zuccarello- who led the team in scoring. In his first ever full NHL season, Zuccarello had 19 goals and 40 assists for 59 points in 77 games.
- Chris Kreider was 6th among rookies in scoring, earning 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists) in just 66 games played. Extrapolate those numbers over an 82-game season and it’s good for 46 points (21 goals, 25 assists), which would have been 4th among rookies. He also showed off his two-way game, earning a plus-14 rating, which was first on the team.
- The Rangers defensive group solidified themselves as one of the best in the NHL. Their 193 goals against were 4th in the NHL. Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein, John Moore, and Anton Stralman all had positive plus/minus ratings and Marc Staal was the only defenseman to play a significant amount of games to have a minus rating (which was minus-1).
- Alain Vigneault proved to be a major upgrade over John Tortorella as the leader of this team. The positive attributes he brought to the table came to fruition and it really seemed like he squeezed all he could out of this team when it got to crunch time.
- The acquisition of Martin St. Louis came at a great price when the star forward forced the hand of Tampa Bay GM, Steve Yzerman, in demanding a trade. Although he got off to a slow start in New York, he picked it up in the playoffs, leading the team in goals, and proved to be a major piece in the Rangers’ cup run.
- After being a healthy scratch at one point during last season’s playoffs, Brad Richards didn’t fare all that much better under Vigneault. His 51 points were the lowest full season output of his career. With six years left on a nine year, $58.5 million contract, it was no surprise that the Rangers bought him out shortly after being eliminated in the finals.
- Richards wasn’t the only big-name forward to under-perform. Although his inconsistent play could be attributed to nagging injuries, Rick Nash’s 39 points in 65 games played were not what the Rangers thought they were getting when they acquired him from Columbus. Still, 26 goals in 65 games would work out to about 33 goals in a full season- something the Rangers would gladly take.
- Although Marc Staal was able to play 72 games this campaign, it is still in doubt whether or not he’ll ever return to his old self. After sustaining a career-threatening eye injury, Marc Staal certainly wasn’t the Marc Staal of old this season.
- Although the addition of Martin St. Louis was a fantastic acquisition for New York, it meant giving up an important player in return. Gone is the unquestionable (former) leader and captain of the Rangers in Ryan Callahan. The fan favourite led by example with fantastic all-around play during his tenure in the Big Apple and there is certainly a hole left in the dressing room with Richards now out of the picture as well.
PROGNOSIS FOR NEXT SEASON
Although it depends on what the Rangers can do with some cap-space-wiggle-room this offseason, it would come as no surprise if the Rangers made a deep playoff run next year. They will have a full season of Martin St. Louis and (barring more injuries) a full season of Rick Nash. Offense has been the weakness of the New York Rangers for quite some time but there is now some promise up front thanks to young players like Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Carl Hagelin, and Chris Kreider. Throw in some role players who excelled in the playoffs like Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, and Dominic Moore, and the Rangers have a really complete lineup. Although one would think that New York is still a tier below the likes of Boston and Pittsburgh in the East, this roster certainly has the potential to return to the finals thanks to an elite D group and the most dependable goalie in the league in Henrik Lundqvist.