The New York Hockey Rangers appear to have gathered some momentum and tenuously sit in a playoff spot in a very competitive Eastern Conference.
The Rangers appear to have gathered some momentum lately and tenuously sit in a playoff spot in a very competitive Eastern Conference where, aside from the Washington Capitals, no team has really separated itself from the pack.
Here are some of the key trends that have helped propel the Rangers in the right direction.
• Connor McDavid has finally started to look like Connor McDavid with a recent hat trick against the Blackhawks and has steadily risen the scoring charts. His 11 goals and 24 points in 18 games is more of what we expected as opposed to his somewhat sluggish start.
• Jonathan Drouin has been an assist machine notching 11 helpers with McDavid before he finally got into the goal column where he quickly scored his first 4 goals in a 3 game stretch.
• Chris Kreider had a hot start and then went ice cold before nothing 3 primary assists for McDavid’s recent hat trick. He continues to hit but in order to climb the standings the Blue Shirts will need more consistency from the big winger.
• Filip Zadina continues to be very impressive. The youngster has 8 goals good for second on the team and continues to have very nice chemistry on the second line with another high scoring youngster in Nico Hischer.
• As mentioned, Hischer has been fantastic as a 2nd line center scoring 7 goals with 15 points in 18 games which is all you could dream of from the young pivot.
• While the numbers won’t wow, the bottom six have really scored some timely goals to help secure wins. In limited minutes Nick Paul, Chris Stewart, Michael Grabner, and Andrew Cogliano have all had moments where they had a major impact on a game and secured a win.
• Mikael Sergachev is quietly picking up momentum in the offensive end amassing 7 points (all helpers). Scoring from defensemen is a little low league-wide so sitting at nearly a half point per game while playing tough minutes is pretty reasonable for the young defender.
So that is what has gone well lately. Let’s see where the Rangers can be better in order to increase their momentum and separate themselves from the pack in the Eastern Conference.
• Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending. Semyon Varlamov will be the first to tell you he can be better. His 0.904 SV% and 3.05 GAA sit near the bottom 3rd of the league which is not where he should be based on his talent and the D in from of him. Jonathan Bernier has not been better in his limited starts.
• Since being acquired Drew Doughty has played steady D but has zero points in 8 games which is surprising given his offensive toolset. Perhaps his low MO is at fault but the high end will have to snap out of his case of the blues if he is going to drive the Rangers forward.
• The penalty kill has been really solid but the PP could be better. With the offensive talent here the team should regress to the mean and become one of the better units in the league.
• Similar to Doughty, recent addition Anthony Duclair got off to a slow offensive start after joining the Rangers but he has been better in the last couple of games.
• More from youngsters. Adam Boqvist has finally gotten his first assist. After the acquisition of Jakob Chychrun, Boqvist has lost his PP time for now but he could get another look if the results don’t come. Alexander Holtz has looked good in his limited time scoring a goal in his first game and adding another assist in 3 games. Philip Broberg and Dawson Mercer got their first NHL game recently and showed well. Broberg in particular played a simple but effective game.
As we near the quarter point of the season, the Rangers look well poised to take the next step and become a front runner in the Eastern Conference and try to chase down the powerhouse Caps. The team has a lot of youth on the team which will have a few hiccups throughout the year but the trend is moving in the right direction.
Hartford Wolfpack Report
The Wolfpack are floundering a little bit which is not unexpected how youthful the group is. There are some positives and negatives up and down the lineup. We will start with the positives.
• Gaetan Haas and Alexander True have lead the charge offensively with 26 points a piece in 19 games and providing some stability down the middle for the young team.
• Mavrik Bourque has far exceeded expectations wracking up 5 goals and 17 assists in 19 games and looking fantastic in his first year.
Only a couple positives? Well there could be a few more but this is the AHL and we don’t need to waste too much ink here. Here are the areas the team needs to improve upon.
• Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending. Same as the pro team. Connor Ingram was thrown into the fire as a high end prospect and, while he has had some flashes, the results have been a little underwhelming with a 0.890 SV% and a 3.99 GAA. Back up Derek Baribeau has been significantly worse, if you can believe it.
• It’s not all Connor’s fault. The D group is young and steady presence Tommy Cross has been injured. Broberg and Bjornfot have had trouble I their own end and need to be better as a tandem. They’ve looked better lately but the team needs more.
• Similarly Holtz and Mercer have warmed up offensively lately but both youngsters have struggled playing in their own end and will need to be better. Holtz has looked better in the NHL where he can rely on solid veterans to do the heavy lifting in the defensive end.
While it might make sense to bring in some veteran help to help this youthful squad, the Rangers want to strike the right balance and give the youth the opportunity to right the ship and get meaningful minutes.
The Rangers may pick up the phone however and look to secure the back end with a more veteran goalie to mentor Ingram in a crease share scenario and add one veteran D to help out and mentor Broberg and Bjornfot.