5 realistic expectations for the Rangers in 2016-2017

NYR WIN (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

NYR WIN (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Coming off the heels of John Dundon’s highly positive Rangers post, I’ve decided to maybe temper expectations. I’ve compiled a list of 5 things I believe the Rangers can achieve this season, and hopefully not overreach.

5. Lundqvist will register his 11th 30+ win season

Lundqvist (USATODAY)

Lundqvist (USATODAY)

In the life of a Rangers’ fan since 2005-06 there are 3 absolute certainties:

  1. Death
  2. Taxes
  3. Henrik Lundqvist

While some experts are pointing to the start of his decline because he will be turning 34, nothing could be further from the truth. For a Rangers team that was downright awful at allowing high percentage shots against, Hank posted 35 wins and a .920 save percentage. The only thing that took a hit naturally was his goals against average of 2.48, which was the highest of his career.

You can read into that if you like, but in his 4th NHL season, he posted a 2.43 GAA and bounced back with a 2.38, 2.28, and 1.97 the next three years. Last year’s high GAA wasn’t a goaltending issue to say the least.

4. Ryan McDonagh will lead all Rangers defensemen in scoring

Ryan McDonagh ends it in OT! (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Ryan McDonagh ends it in OT! (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

With the departure of Keith Yandle and lack of a trade to bring in a Kevin Shattenkirk, this one is a no brainer. In the 2013-14 magical season, McDonagh posted a career high 43 points including 14 goals and 13 power play points.

Look to the Rangers to lean heavily on their captain this season, and watch him produce thanks to a longer offseason than he is used to. Over the last few seasons, McD has been nursing a myriad of injuries and he will be healthy and fresh to start this one.

3. Derek Stepan will emerge to be the Rangers clear #1 center

Stepan(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Stepan(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Truth be told, I would’ve made this prediction even if Derick Brassard was on the team. While I believe Mika Zibanejad will be almost or just as good a Brassard, there have been signs that Stepan may just break out this year.

Stepan is 26 and entering his prime which is a huge factor. He is starting his 7th NHL season and will likely be playing with either or both Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello. But why I really think he will emerge is his improved play on special teams.

Last season, Stepan set a career high with 3 shorthanded goals and tied his career high of 5 power play goals. 8 of his 22 tallies (also a career high) came on special teams and he will likely be leaned on heavily again there this year.

2. The Rangers will be better on defense

I want to be clear here, this is not stating the Rangers have no issues on defense, just that they will be better. Why? I attribute it to 3 factors:

  1. Jeff Beukeboom
  2. A healthier defense
  3. A faster and stronger bottom six

The Rangers last year gave up more shots from the inner slot than any other NHL team last season. That is what caused Hank’s bloated GAA(for him anyway) and the Rangers finishing 15th in goals against. You can expect that to be the focus for Jeff Beukeboom and Alain Vigneault to fix this year.

The Blueshirts left countless men alone in front last year, and everyone was to blame including the forwards. I believe when you factor in a healthier blue-line, and added speed up front like Michael Grabner, these Rangers can greatly improve defensively as a unit.

And yes, that is even with Dan Girardi and Marc Staal on the backend.

1. The New York Rangers will make the playoffs

Lundqvist. (Photo by Anthony J. Causi)

Lundqvist. (Photo by Anthony J. Causi)

I think when you factor in all things mentioned above, you come to the realization that his team is still good enough to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

We know, Washington and Pittsburgh are the best of the Metro today. However, I’m not sold on any of the other teams in the division being better than the Rangers. I look at the Blueshirts to finish no less than 3rd in the division and grab a 6th seed in the East.

Tell me what you think in the comments section below.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore