The New York Rangers were disappointed with their lack of success in the playoffs last year, and knew they were going to face a tough off-season with the salary cap issues and players needing new contracts. The Rangers needed to make moves, and they ended up trading Carl Hagelin to the Anaheim Ducks for Emerson Etem and draft picks. Their moves continued as the Rangers then traded Cam Talbot to the Edmonton Oilers for picks in the draft.
The Rangers lost a few more players to free agency, like Matt Hunwick going to Toronto. They experienced another loss when Martin St. Louis, retired after 18 years of professional hockey, one Stanley Cup, three Olympic medals and one Hart Trophy. He finished out his career with the Rangers scoring 22 goals and 38 assists during his 2 seasons combined.
The Rangers went on to resign players like Derek Stepan, Jesper Fast, and J.T. Miller. They also tried to fill the holes they created with the moves by acquiring Antti Raanta to replace Cam Talbot, and they signed free agents Viktor Stalberg and Jarett Stoll.
Going into the season, many believe the Rangers wouldn’t have the same level of success as they had last year. Obviously, Antti Raanta is not Cam Talbot. When Henrik Lundqvist went down last year, Talbot stepped up and play phenomenally to help lead the Rangers to the franchise’s third Presidents’ Trophy.
However, Raanta has started this season with an excellent performance, winning both of his starts and posting a goals-against-average of 0.50 and a save percentage of .987. Obviously, with the season being so young and the Rangers only having played 12 games, they seem to be continuing their success from last season.
But how is this possible? Viktor Stalberg and Jarrett Stoll aren’t Carl Hagelin, and Emerson Etem has only seen three games this season.
There are two main answers to this question: the defense core and the stepping up of the young role players.
The Rangers arguably have the best D-core in the league, with a solid 6: Marc Staal, Keith Yandle, Dan Boyle, Kevin Klein, Dan Girardi and the captain Ryan McDonagh. All these players have been in the league for so many years and have great experience. If any of these players were on a different team, they would all be considered to be on the top two defense lines. The Rangers’ defenseman and goalies have allowed the fewest goals this season and the six defensemen have 6 goals on the season. They are truly doing it on both ends.
The stepping up of players like Mats Zuccarello, Oscar Lindberg, and others are the reason the offense is continuing to flow in New York. Zuccarello is making up for the lost time in the playoffs last season by storming out of the gates with 7 goals and 2 assists. He might truly be the heart of the Rangers; when he went out last year, the offensive production of the team dropped dramatically.
Oscar Lindberg, a rookie, has been one of the biggest surprises of the Rangers this year. He has had a few multi-point games thus far, including a two-goal game in his first few games this season. Lindberg has 6 goals and 3 assists on the season. In the first few games he made an argument for the Calder Trophy, however the success would have to continue all year for him to beat out Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel for this award.
Overall, the success will be there for the Rangers throughout the season if their players stay healthy and they find a way to get the puck in the back of net. (Yes, I know, that’s what every team needs) The defense and goaltending for the Rangers will be there all year long. So it won’t be surprising seeing them in the playoffs again this year.