Metropolitan Division 2014-15 Preview: New York Rangers
COACH: Alain Vigneault
2013-14 RECORD: 45-31-6, 96 points (second in Metropolitan, lost in Stanley Cup to Kings)
VITAL SIGNS: 2.6 goals per game (18th), 2.3 goals-against per game (4th); 18.2 power play pct. (15th); 85.3 penalty kill pct. (3rd); shootout record: 4-3 (10th)
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Chris Kreider — Derek Stepan (injured) — Martin St. Louis
Carl Hagelin — Derick Brassard — Mats Zuccarello
J.T. Miller — Matthew Lombardi — Rick Nash
Ryan Malone — Dominic Moore — Lee Stempniak
Tanner Glass, Kevin Hayes, Anthony Duclair
OUTLOOK: Even though John Tortorella has been gone for two years, the Rangers have still made a name for themselves as shot-blocking, body-taking scrappers who rely on their penalty kill and the backbone provided by elite goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The major difference between last year’s Stanley Cup runners up and this year’s squad, however, is that many of the players who used to be sent out to do New York’s dirty work are gone. The imposing presences and defensive acumen of Brian Boyle (Tampa Bay) and Benoit Pouliot (Edmonton) have departed, as well as pesky Derek Dorsett (Vancouver). Dan Boyle will add a seasoned offensive facet to the defense corps, but with Derek Stepan (broken fibula) out for the beginning of the season Rick Nash will have to finally become the player the Rangers traded for two years ago. If he and the often-dynamic Chris Kreider can provide some firepower, the Rangers might have a shot to do some surprising damage in the playoffs again.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Chris Kreider
He was a force to be reckoned with at times in the playoffs last spring, but he has yet to blossom into the player his size (6-foot-3, 226 pounds) and speed dictate he should be. Cutting down on lapses in on-ice judgement and continuing to gel with Nash on the Rangers’ top line might push him over the 60-point plateau this season and that would do a lot to lessen the Rangers’ worries about where their offense will come from.
PREDICTION: 92 points (fourth in Metropolitan)