Now that the cuts have been made and the season begins in mere days, it’s officially time to analyze the Rangers opening night line-up…
1. Based on reports from practice, the forward lines will resemble this:
The top six?
In a vacuum, the third line looks like a winner as well, but I feel the construction of that line creates a weaker bottom three. I doubt I’ll gain many supporters with this take, but similar to the playoffs last year, putting Grabner, who likely won’t come close to replicating his scoring prowess of last season, on the fourth line gives the Rangers the most balanced line-up. Vesey is not a fourth line player and his presence there is a waste of his talent. He needs to be in the Top 9. And once Fast returns, you are looking at as solid a forward corps 1 thru 12 as you’ll find in the NHL:
2. Meanwhile on defense:
That Top 4 tho…
That bottom pair?
We’re all aware of Staal’s short comings on defense as his body continues to betray him due to injuries and age…
So pairing him with a player who has a reputation of being equally inept in the defensive end seems like a recipe for disaster. Now I’m not saying Holden is Bobby Orr, but he was more than sufficient defensively for 3/4 of the 2016-17 season until the wheels completely came off down the stretch and into the playoffs. I mean we’re talking about a player who finished the season with a respectable 34 points. Put him with DeAngelo on a sheltered third pair that sees a ton of offensive zone starts and I’m ready to go to war with that defensive corps.
3. Now this is where the fun starts. The power play units…
Kevin Shattenkirk, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad
Anthony DeAngelo, Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, JT Miller, David Desharnais
I think I’d cheat on my wife with that first unit. Great mix of playmakers, shooters, net front presence and of course, the x-factor, Mr. Shattenkirk.
As far as the second unit goes, I’m real excited to see what Desharnais can do as he’s showcased a lot more skill than I anticipated. He’ll be the playmaker on this unit while Nash does the dirty work in front.
The only change I’d make is substitute Skjei for McDonagh. Not only does Skjei offer more offensive skill, it’ll cut down on McDonagh’s minutes which will hopefully allow the Captain, who’s body will likely begin to breakdown (see Dan Girardi) sooner rather than later, to sneak in a couple more minutes of rest per game.
4. On the penalty kill, this is likely what we’ll see…
Kevin Hayes, Michael Grabner, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk
Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad, Brendan Smith, Brady Skjei
This is where losing Oscar Lindberg in the expansion draft hurts the Rangers. In my opinion, Hayes is a big downgrade at center on the PK from Lindberg. I don’t see him being as defensively responsible as AV thinks he is.
Despite my defensive PK pairings prediction, I’ve got to assume Marc Staal finds his way on one of these units if he’s in the line-up. Likely for either Skjei or Shattenkirk.
Once Fast is healthy, he’ll be rotated in on the wing as well.
5. In defensive prospect news, apparently the KHL’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk is looking to poach Alexei Bereglazov from the Rangers.
Bereglazov has a clause in his contract that allows him to return to Russia if he’s not on the Rangers NHL roster.
While you can never have enough defensive prospects, with Pionk, Graves, Day and Crawley in the system, losing Bereglazov, who disappointed in camp, will be far from catastrophic.
6. Having said that, Bereglazov is making the most of his time in Hartford…
7. Speaking of Russian prospects…
8. Lias Andersson may have been sent back to Sweden, but he’s taking it in stride (Hockey Sverige)…
“I think somewhere that this is the best for me. I know Rangers trusts much at Frölunda, so it feels very safe from both sides.”
This kid gets it. Would have been real easy for him to go back to Sweden and sulk. Instead, he’s using it as a positive which will only make him and ultimately the Rangers better.
9. The season hasn’t even started and Marc Staal already needed assistance from teammates after getting himself into trouble…
10. The best thing I saw on the internet today? How about Dan Girardi’s reaction to scoring during a scrimmage…
While I won’t miss his defensive gaffes, I will miss that dry sense of humor. I know “locker room presence” can be over-stated, but his personality will be hard to replace.
11. Tough day for Rangers defensive prospect Sean Day…
Going back to juniors for a FIFTH season probably wasn’t the plan for Day as his potential remains unfulfilled…
Hey, it could be worse for Day. He could be Dylan McIlrath…
That 2010 draft is starting to reach 2003 draft (Hugh Jessiman) status for the Rangers. Disaster.
12. Reason #1,356 why Mats Zuccarello should be an alternate captain: Wearing knee high Rangers socks while leading his teammates during Lake Placid bonding exercise…