Blueshirts Pulse: It’s early but serious lineup decisions will need to be made soon
The New York Rangers have played seven games in an eighty-two game season. I think it’s fair to say that if the Rangers played .500 until Derek Stepan and Dan Boyle return from their injuries, fans would be happy with that, myself included. Per Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record Derek Stepan is progressing well. You can read his story here. Report: Rangers’ Stepan will begin skating ‘shortly’ | theScore.
The Rangers gained some momentum with three straight victories after 3 horrible losses. The win Sunday was a very satisfying 4-0 victory against one of the Western Conference elite, San Jose Sharks. In the game at New Jersey, the Blueshirts were trailing 3-1 early in the third period and showed some guts by scoring twice in the final stanza to tie the game at three, then win it in overtime. The Devils managed three power play goals which is a rarity against the Blueshirts but they found a way to win the game.
In that particular game against New Jersey, the second goal scored on the power play by Chris Mueller is a perfect example of why this team needs a righty shot for the left side on the power play. Off-wingers are dangerous on the man advantage because they’re standing with their backs to the boards. They’re facing the net and can get off a one time shot or one touch pass much faster on the forehand. Watch clips of Alex Ovechkin at the left side faceoff circle blasting a one timer on the power play. The Blueshirts only have two right-handed forwards and ten lefties right now(Mueller and Stempniak). When Stepan returns it will be three out of 12, it just isn’t “right”. (Yes, bad pun)
Lineup Decisions Are Coming
When Derek Stepan returns sometime in early November, who comes out of the lineup in his place? He’s one of the New York Rangers few right-handed forwards the Rangers have. Chris Mueller is also a righty centerman but could end up as the odd man out. Mueller is a power play specialist who is capable of playing on the wing if needed. I like Mueller but he would be the easiest choice to become the thirteenth forward. Kevin Hayes could go to Hartford but then who is the big centerman on the roster? This is a problem management and the coaching staff need to figure out.
Other possibilities to be sent down or traded is Ryan Malone and even Tanner Glass. Although there really is no one in the lineup who can do what Glass does, when it comes to throwing fists.
The Duke, The Beast and The Big Hayes
Anthony “Duke” Duclair was scratched for the game at home against the San Jose Sharks and he hasn’t played since. My thought is if he continues to play the way he has, he will remain with the team until Derek Stepan returns. Unfortunately for the “Duke” there is a logjam at wing on Broadway, especially on the left side. If Duclair were a righty, he would have a much better chance of staying.
Rick Nash, “The Beast of Broadway” has been on a tear to begin the season. In the first seven games of the season, Rick Nash has amassed eight goals. He’s scored a goal in all but one game so far this season (but beat Carolina in the shootout) and has looked like the player we traded for in the summer of 2012. In the playoffs, Nash led the NHL in shots but couldn’t find the back of the net. He’s given us fans reason to be excited but he has to do it in the postseason too. Of course, you have to get there first.
The concussion he sustained early last season must have affected his game. He wasn’t confident to drive the net and as a power forward, that’s the game he has to play. The fact he couldn’t help his team on the scoreboard in the finals against Los Angeles, must have really bothered him. He has gathered that feeling to the new year and played inspirational hockey. If he were playing like this against L.A., there’s no doubt the outcome would have been different. I look forward to the next time the Rangers get to face the LA Kings on January 8th.
Kevin Hayes has been given minutes on the top line as the center between Rick Nash and Chris Kreider. He isn’t the fleetest of foot as some FullTilt readers have let us know but his size in the middle opens up space for his wingers. With Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes, and Chris Kreider on the same line. There are few defensive pairs in the NHL that could stop that trio for an entire game. Hayes changes the landscape of the Rangers at the center position.
Blueshirts Pulse Q & A
1-Who comes out of the lineup when Derek Stepan returns?
2-What do the Blueshirts do with Anthony Duclair?
3-Will Rick Nash score 40 or more goals this season?
4-Will Kevin Hayes remain with the Blueshirts for the entire regular season?
5-Will Management make a trade this season for a right-handed forward or will they promote a righty from within?
Please answer in the comments section below.