It’s that time of year again. I want to say this, and I cannot stress this enough, I love the New York Rangers. There’s nothing better then getting out of work, speeding home, and turning on game night ready for the boys in Blue to go to war. We’ve already seen Sam call Gerard Gallant Gerard Gauthier, we’ve already had an MSG 150. Atta boy, Pidto. It’s time for hockey. This is a new year with a new coach, a new fourth line, and some new young talent looking to make a name for themselves. Add that to a Norris Trophy winner, a top 5 winger and a 2nd overall pick ready to make a name for himself? It’s good to be a Rangers fan.
Smell ya later Quinnypoo. The Rangers brought in Gerard Gallant and I, for one, am very excited. All reports out of NY seem to suggest that Quinn did a lot of micromanaging with NHL players, something one might do in college but not so much professionally. Gallant seems to preach hard work, compete, and have fun. It’s simple- win 50/50 battles, possess the puck and add a little razzle dazzle. I’m interested to see how he plays the kids and how he plays certain players who have a tendency to disappear at times. Regardless, I feel safe saying we’re in a better spot now then we were a year ago.
Lafrenière – Zibanejad – Kreider
I’m going to keep this simple – If Zibanejad goes, this line will go. Be prepared for Kreider to take his 60 game hiatus, and be prepared for some growing pains in Lafrenière. However, if Zibanjead comes back as the player he was at the end of last season, he immediately makes the other players around him. I’m not expecting Lafrenière to have some sort of offensive explosive year, I am, however, looking for him to get more comfortable and more confident. If Mika can carry play, and Kreider keeps his game driving towards the net, Lafrenière will have more time and space to make those elite level plays we’ve already seen from him. Oh, and with a new coach, 13 and 24 should actually see regular Power Play time now. What a thought, eh?
Panarin – Strome – Kakko
Kaapo Kakko is going to have a break out year. Last year he finally started looking like an NHL player. Towards the end of the year, you saw his confidence starting to build, with him dominating puck battles in the corners. In the preseason you’ve seen an extra step, you’ve seen a little bit of “I have the puck, good luck” and as Rangers fans, this is exactly what we’ve been waiting for. Add that to Panarin and Strome? And a coach who is willing to let a line form some chemistry? Strome will distribute, Panarin will play make, and Kaapo will be a bull dog in the corners. Get ready for some fun.
Goodrow – Chytil – Kravtsov
I truly think a guy like Goodrow will help the young guns out on this line. If you’ve followed the Rangers last couple of years, you’re aware of the talent level in Chytil and Krav. It’s been talked about time and time again. Chytil has wheels, Krav has smarts and both can be dynamic game changing players. The issue with them is that when they aren’t buzzing, when they’re not carrying play, they’re invisible or don’t do all the little things (Shoutout Rick Nash). Goodrow can bring tenacity, a sound defensive game and experience to a line that might need it when it’s not all clicking. If the Rangers can count on this line to keep the pucks out of their own net, in addition to putting a few in the oppositions net, then they will have a third line that you can roll for 60 minutes. I’m intrigued to see what a line like this can do.
Blais – Rooney – Reaves
When was the last time the New York Rangers had an identity on the fourth line? Seriously? You’re sitting here thinking and you’re probably coming up with Boyle, Dorsett and Moore. That was 2014- 7 years! Whether you like it or not, the Rangers addressed this issue in the offseason with the additions of Ryan Reaves and Sammy Blais. Ryan Reaves will be able to police some bigger teams and players in the metro (Martin, Wilson, Chara) and Sammy Blais will finish with almost 2 billions hits this season. This fourth line will bring grit, this fourth line will bring jam, and this fourth line will impose their physical prowess on opposing defenseman. Playing a sound defensive game while taking time and space away from other players will open up the ice for the big dogs when it’s their time to go out there. This fourth line will finally have a purpose and should bring a little bit more swagger to the Rangers.
Extra: Gauthier, Hunt, Barron
It sucks that there isn’t room because I think each one of these players could serve a role with this squad. Gauthier is one of the few forwards that drives the net, no matter what, and with the preseason injury to Kravy, you might see Julien start the year up on the third line. Hunt has wheels and can be relentless on the forecheck while being defensively responsible. Barron is the Rangers home grown Brian Boyle- big body, sound defensively, PKs hard. I think each one of these players will get a shot at some point this season, the question is if they take advantage of it.
Lindgren – Fox
You know what you’re going to get from these guys every game. Lindgren will outwork every player from both teams and Fox will amaze us with his hockey IQ. Fingers crossed this is something we see for the next decade.
Miller – Trouba
Miller has had some struggles in the preseason but I’m not worried. He’s gigantic, has a long reach, and the skating ability to just skate the puck up the ice without getting touched with the snap of a finger- he can be his own breakout. Trouba NEEDS to build off of the season he had last year. I’m particularly hard on Trouba because of what I saw in WPG compared to NY, but if he keeps his game simple and becomes a player that no-one wants to go into the corner with, then you have yourself a hell of a top 4.
Nemeth – Lundkvist
Nemeth is a perfect addition to the Rangers. He’s every 3rd pairing defenseman the Rangers have signed except this time, they got a good one. He should be reliable in his own end, tough to play against, and most importantly make it easier for Lundkvist to transition into the NHL. Nils, boy that guy can run a PP eh? If Nils can continue to impress offensively, all while learning the NHL pace, the Rangers top 6 very well might transform into a top unit this season.
Shesterkin – Georgiev
If Igor can stay healthy, the Rangers have a top 10 goalie. If he can’t and the Rangers have to depend on Georgiev then good luck.
I know people hate fourth lines because they don’t score goals but I really think the addition of Blais and Reaves make the Rangers such a better team, such a tougher team to play against. The Rangers can put out two lines that can beat you on the scoreboard, a line that can but also can play defensively, and a line that will put you through the boards. Add all of that to a Norris trophy winner, a goalie who can steal games, and a d core that doesn’t have Marc Staal?? My prediction? Rangers will 100% make the playoffs this year. How about you?