New York Rangers: Olympics break report card
It looked for a few months like Madison Square Garden would be quiet this spring.
But while the Knicks continue to flounder, their co-tenants, the Rangers, have put together a 12-6 record in 2014 and have climbed up to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings. They are still well behind Metropolitan Division-favorites Pittsburgh, but they look like a good bet to make the playoffs and could be hot enough to do some damage.
The grades …
Everyone seemed to think new head coach Alain Vigneault would walk in and instantly mold John Tortorella’s team into a juggernaut. In reality, it’s taken awhile. (And taken some changes, just ask Michael Del Zotto.) But Vigneault does look like the coach to lead this team going forward.
The King will return to his net Thursday, coming off an impressive showing in Sochi. He led an undermanned Sweden side to the top seed and a silver medal. It’s a good sign for Lundqvist, who many feared was past his prime as the season got underway. And yes, people were even clamoring for Cam Talbot to become the future netminder in New York. But after allowing a 2.44 goals against average in his first 25 games, he’s at 2.16 in the 19 since.
The captain has had far from the year anyone expected. His 24 points rank just seventh on the team. Maybe his grind-it-out style just doesn’t work as well under this staff.
It’s been a bounceback year for a guy benched last postseason and considered for amnesty. He still may be bought out, but that has more to do with his outrageous contract than on-ice play.
The other high-paid disappointment besides Richards last season was Nash. He’s also flourishing under Vigneault. He leads the team with 18 goals despite missing time with a concussion.
Stepan, still just 23, hasn’t quite taken the next, well, step many expect will come. But his assists are up, even if his goal scoring is stagnant, so there’s reason for optimism.
It didn’t get the attention of John Tavares’ injury, but Zuccarello being out a month is really bad for the Rangers. He’s been amazing, leading the team with 43 points and 28 assists.
The Rangers’ top defenseman has added a new level of offense to his game. He already has 22 assists (his career high is 27) and played well in his Olympic debut.
Girardi, like Callahan, has struggled most in adapting to Vigneault’s new system — one that emphasizes defense less. He may even become a trade piece for the Rangers.
It’s nice to see Staal finally healthy after so many issues, most prominently a vicious concussion. But he’s third on the team in minutes per game and playing solidly.
Sure, everyone thought the veteran role player Brassard would be the team’s fourth-leading scorer, right? He’s on pace for a career high in points and is outplaying Callahan at center.
Maybe no one was more looking forward to the departure of Tortorella than Kreider. He’s finally gotten consistent ice time and rewarded fans with 13 goals and a team-best plus-12 mark.
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.