It’s not how the Rangers’ playoff run ended that resonates with Derick Brassard. Instead, it’s the experiences gleaned from the franchise’s longest playoff run in two decades that will make a difference in the upcoming season.
“We can take a lot of good things that we did last year and bring them into this year,” Brassard said in a phone interview during preseason. “Winning some key games, coming back in the 1-3 series against Pittsburgh, showing a lot of character — we proved to ourselves we can beat some really good teams.”
In reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993-94, the Rangers had to navigate their way past Metropolitan Division rivals Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, followed by Montreal in the conference final while managing injuries, a malfunctioning power play and a suspension.
Their reward is an opportunity to do it all over again, this time without some old friends and with some new faces.
The Rangers enter the 2014-15 season having been made over due to salary cap constraints. Gone are Anton Stralman, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot and Derek Dorsett.
In their place are Dan Boyle, Lee Stempniak, Tanner Glass and the talk of training camp, 19-year-old left wing Anthony Duclair.
Duclair was the best rookie in training camp after finishing with five points (three goals and two assists) in five games. Oh, and he made the club.
"He's earned the right," Vigneault said, noting Duclair will skate on one of the top three lines. "He's got an NHL skill set: the hands, the speed, the thinking with the puck. It's there. Can that continue when the season starts — full NHL lineup, full NHL pace, intensity? He's going to get a chance to prove that."
With the exception of Boyle — expected to be the power-play quarterback the Rangers have lacked since the halcyon days when Brian Leetch manned the point — and Duclair, the newcomers are complementary pieces. One piece to the team's marrow, Ryan McDonagh, was named the 27th captain in Rangers history Monday night.
Entering his fifth NHL season, McDonagh might be the most irreplaceable Ranger outside of Henrik Lundqvist. Last season, the top-pair defenseman set career highs in goals (14), assists (29), points (43), power play goals (two), short-handed goals (three) and shots (177) all while logging 24:49 of ice time per game.
“Ryan McDonagh exemplifies what we want a New York Ranger to be,” general manager Glen Sather said of McDonagh in a statement Monday night.
McDonagh, 25, is the third straight American to captain the Rangers, following Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan, and will be aided by alternate captains Derek Stepan, Martin St. Louis, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.
“He has earned the respect of his teammates through his commitment to excellence, both on and off the ice, and the passion with which he plays on a consistent basis,” Sather said. “He is the ideal choice to lead our team as its captain.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.