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"Talking New York Rangers Hockey, since 2007"
New York, NY • United States • 23 Years Old • Male
Last night on the HockeyBuzz Podcast, Leafs writer Mike Augello picked the New York Rangers to win the Atlantic Division. The founder of this site responded in disbelief, comparing such a prediction to picking the Leafs to win the Northeast. But this reaction is unsurprising, if you have read Eklund’s Atlantic Divison preview, in which he questions the Rangers’ chemistry and toughness.

To which I ask, what Rangers team have you been watching?

The Rangers have their issues, and we will get to that later in the blog, but to think that they are lacking some sort of jump in the lineup is ridiculous. The Rangers have a number of energy players, starting with Brandon Prust, Brandon Dubinsky, Mike Rupp, and Captain Ryan Callahan. There are many others who play a physical, mean game, but it would be foolish to list the majority of players on the roster. All you really need to know about the Rangers toughness is that they led the NHL in hits and were 4th in blocked shots. The Rangers are also willing to drop the gloves, and they picked up the 6th most fighting majors in the league. So there is no doubt the Rangers have many tough players on the squad.

Maybe that is hard to see because they are also good at hockey, unlike some of the bullies who have recently skated on Broad Street.

As far as chemistry is concerned, there is really only one question mark: Brad Richards playing with Marian Gaborik. In theory, this should work out, but the same was said about Jagr and Gomez in 2007. We will not know until the season gets underway but suffice it so say that if the two struggle to mesh, the Rangers will as well. But going down the lineup, the lines are pretty much all the same from last season. Callahan is playing with Anisimov. Boyle is playing with Prust. And Stepan is playing with Zuccarello. All of these combinations had success in the past and if they struggle, it won’t be an issue of chemistry.

However, addressing Eklund’s misconceptions about the Rangers does not explain how they will top the Atlantic Division. In addition to the toughness and chemistry the team brings to the ice, the Rangers have other strengths that should lead to success.

It starts with Henrik Lundqvist, who is the only goalie in the NHL to finish in the top 12 in GAA and Sv% every season since the lockout. He is consistently in the Vezina race, and nobody questions his skill as a top goalie. Whether he will make the jump to actually win the trophy is a nice debate, but not truly relevant. Either way, he keeps the Rangers in games night in and night out. His skills allow the Rangers to take more chances on offense, and helps the entire team. When he gets hot, Lundqvist can win games on his own, something that is crucial for teams that don’t have a top offense in the league.

The Rangers strength down the middle is also enviable. Enough has been said about Brad Richards, but the rest of the centers are young and promising. Anisimov, Stepan, and Boyle scored 18, 21 and 21 goals respectively in 2010-11 and are on the rise in their careers. As we have seen with past Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh and Chicago, one of the most important aspects of the game is the play center ice; the Rangers just happen to be very talented in that position.

This is also a prime opportunity for success in the division. The Islanders are improving but not quite a threat for the division crown yet. The Devils had struggles last year. Granted that was followed by great success, but Brodeur is one year older and there is no guarantee that the “real” Devils was the team that went on a tear in desperation time. The Flyers lost two of their most important pieces to get a goalie who may not even win the starting job from Sergei Bobrovsky. And Pittsburgh is obviously dealing with the loss of Sidney Crosby.

Now these are all talented teams, and the division is certainly not going to be a cakewalk. But everybody is dealing with their issues, and it is wide open for one of those teams to overcome adversity and capitalize.

The Rangers also have their fair share of adversity to deal with. They finished 16th in the league in scoring, but even that number was undeserved as the bulk of those goals came in blowout games, leaving few goals left to spread around for the rest of the season. But a few minor assumptions indicate that as a team, the Rangers scoring will improve dramatically.

It is probably fair to assume that most of the following young forwards will see a bump in offense as part of their normal development: Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov, and Mats Zuccarello. Brad Richards will help the scoring total himself, while helping Marian Gaborik to improve, at least somewhat, on his miserable 22 goal campaign. Meanwhile, the highest scorer the Rangers lost in the offseason is Vinny Prospal, who tallied all of 9 goals for the club. The dismal power play should also improve from 18th best, now that the club has a legitimate quarterback at the point.

Put all these factors together, and depending on how much improvement is shown, the Rangers can be closer to the top 10 scoring teams in the NHL. Couple that with Henrik Lundqvist and the 5th best goals against in the league from last season, and the Rangers are looking very strong.

The big issue is the defense, which looked very strong, albeit very young, when Marc Staal was a part of it. Now, it looks shaky, as the Rangers are forced to play Michael Del Zotto and Time Erixon in bigger roles than expected. Even so, these young players have tremendous talent, both 1st round picks in the NHL Entry Draft. However, they are likely to have struggles as they adjust to playing the pro game. Until Staal comes back, the Rangers will be vulnerable. Their shot at the division will hang in the balance, and they need to weather the storm for as long as possible until he returns. If he doesn’t come back, then they probably are out of the running. But if he does, this becomes a solid team in every aspect of the game.

Even the haters will agree to that.

Hate on the Rangers in the comment section below


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Filed Under:   pens   flyers   eklund   rangers   rags2riches   rags2riches  
October 6, 2011 12:50 PM ET | Delete
October 6, 2011 1:09 PM ET | Delete
They are better, on paper, then the Flyers, Devils, and Isles. They have a shot.
October 6, 2011 1:20 PM ET | Delete
Ek is a flyers fan. Nuff said.
October 6, 2011 1:26 PM ET | Delete
October 6, 2011 2:54 PM ET | Delete
i will say this with King Henrik alone the Rangers have that chance. they have a great young defense and got some great goal scoring. They got rid of the cancer Avery I hate to sayt his but the Rangers could win this division
October 6, 2011 3:41 PM ET | Delete
cant see any of the new york area teams winning the division unless sid doest play and its one hell of a division all team except isles make it
October 6, 2011 4:32 PM ET | Delete
I did not hate on them. did not compare them to the leafs. don't appreciate the title. I was comparing how shocked I was to how shocked mike would have been. In my article I said they could finish 1-5, didn't I?
October 6, 2011 4:59 PM ET | Delete
Classic case of a fan misreading a article and taking it personal because it has to do with his team. Anyone other then the islanders can win this division (NO OFFENSE ISLANDER FANS!) Live, learn, and grow up.
October 6, 2011 6:43 PM ET | Delete
Not sure what was personal? I just addressed points in Eks article I disagreed with, then pointed out the Rangers strengths and opportunities... In my opinion, Ek made up baseless information about the Rangers, that is why I titled it as I did, and to get people to read it. But nothing was taken personally. All logic no emotion.
October 6, 2011 6:45 PM ET | Delete
and Ek, saying you would be just as shocked with a Leafs prediction as a Rangers is saying that the two teams winning the division are equally shocking, no?
October 6, 2011 7:35 PM ET | Delete
I can now say I have seen a journalist and a fan go at it on blog. Ek, you have out done yourself once again.
October 6, 2011 9:36 PM ET | Delete
Starting off sans Staal is tough but this team could win the division. They would need things to fall just right. Also, I don't think this team lacks toughness at all; that's actually one of their best qualities. Good job Ragsy.
October 6, 2011 10:58 PM ET | Delete
we'll win it sometime in the next 3 or 4 years, thats for sure. also, i dont know how good ek is at predicting, he picked st louis to win the central division. nice blog
October 7, 2011 3:10 AM ET | Delete
Rangers win the Atlantic...nope. Flyers all the way!!! Ah, a new hockey season and my first bit of hate on NY.
October 7, 2011 3:10 AM ET | Delete
Message Posted
October 7, 2011 8:27 AM ET | Delete
Leave all the Hate below, classic. Every team has a chance even the Islanders in the beginning of the year but it's comical how you always need to compare a team to the team on Braod Street. Classless and comical.
October 7, 2011 9:20 AM ET | Delete
When did I compare Rangers and Flyers? I only mentioned the Flyers to illustrate why Eklund may not know what toughness is. Now commenting like you did, that is classless and comical.
October 7, 2011 9:42 AM ET | Delete
Way i see it is the Atlantic is wide open. All teams could win the division.
October 7, 2011 10:18 AM ET | Delete
October 7, 2011 12:00 PM ET | Delete
Flyers are my team from the east, but looking at the rangers it is no longer a team just made by signing the players to inflated contracts hoping they live up to them. They have a great lineup and should definitely make some noise in the season and challenge for the division. I believe the fight is going to come down to Penguins, Flyers and Rangers this year.
October 7, 2011 12:50 PM ET | Delete
this ranger team is going to be too good for the flyers. how many years do you think jagr and pronger have? we're only goign to get better, callahan, gaborik, dubinsky, boyle, anisimov, hank are all hitting their primes!
October 7, 2011 12:50 PM ET | Delete
Message Posted
October 7, 2011 11:03 PM ET | Delete
I'm pretty sure EK has to check the spelling of his name whenever he writes it. Don't worry about what he thinks (does he think?), the Rangers are always a threat (regardless of how they're SUPPOSED to do) and anybody that hasn't noticed the Islanders progress is going to see it pretty fast. All in all, I'm just glad hockey is back! Good luck to everybody's team, and remember, don't take EK too seriously lol.
October 8, 2011 1:48 PM ET | Delete
The Rangers have improved and are going to be good for sure. Of course they have a chance to win the division but most pundits, when handicapping the 5 teams, would list the Rangers in the middle of the pack, at least behind the Pens. The uncertain nature of the Flyers makes them hard to handicap but they are much more than just Pronger
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