Former Rangers in the Playoffs
It’s no secret that there are a number of former Rangers still in the playoffs. Each former Ranger has provided their new team with some sort of contribution. Ok, Michael Grabner pretty much sucked in New Jersey, but that was part of the plan; gain a second rounder, give no significant contribution, and re-sign with New York on the cheap. That being said, let’s see how the rest of the former Blueshirts are doing.
After scoring 31 points (25G, 6A) in 59 games this season for the Rangers, Grabner scored a mere five points (2G, 3A) in 21 games for New Jersey. Traded for to be a depth scorer on a newly competitive Devils team, Grabner simply did not do what he was traded for. Always a streaky scorer, Grabner went cold when he crossed the Hudson and did not improve his numbers in the playoffs. Grabner went pointless in two games before being scratched for the Devils last three games. If you are looking for a bright spot here, the only positive is if the Rangers truly want to bring him back. If that’s the case, Grabner’s contract leverage may have been slightly affected and will be able to be signed for cheaper than if he had gone on a tear in the last 20 games with the Devils.
Brian Boyle signed with the Devils in the offseason after spending the last few years with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Boyle was brought in to be a veteran leader on a young and contending Devils squad. Amongst active players, there are few who can match the amount of Stanley Cup Playoff experience (111 games) that Boyle has. During the first round series loss to the Lightning, Boyle did not produce any points for the Devils. However, Boyle was in the middle of the entire series and got into it with Mikhail Sergachev after Sergachev appeared to throw an elbow into Blake Coleman.
After a career year last season with the Rangers, Holden took a slight step back this season. He still scored 12 points (3G, 9A) with the Rangers in 55 games before providing the Bruins with five points (1G, 4A) in 18 games. However, like Grabner, Holden has received a few healthy scratches. In the playoffs, Holden has played just a single game for the Bruins and scored one point. As the playoffs go on, look to see Holden get more playing time as the bumps and bruises begin to take their toll on his fellow Boston defensemen. I may be in the minority, but Holden is not a bad depth defenseman and actually had the best-advanced numbers of any Ranger defensemen this season prior to the trade.
Holden’s teammate Rick Nash has seen a little more success with the Bruins. After a down season with only 28 points (18G, 10A) in 60 games with the Rangers, Nash has found a home on Boston’s second line scoring six points (3G, 3A) in 11 games. While Nash was injured at the end of the regular season, he was in the lineup for Game 1 against Toronto. In eight games so far Nash has four points (3G, 1A). Don’t let his stats fool you, Nash continues to be the most snake-bitten player in history, as every Ranger fan knows all too well. In Game 7, Nash batted a puck out of mid-air towards a wide open net only to see the puck get stopped by the butt end of Andersen’s stick. When Nash finally breaks out, look for Boston’s offense to become deadly.
Hagelin has now won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins and is looking for a third as the Penguins dispatched the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. During the series, Hagelin scored three points (2G, 1A) and was a consistent threat with his speed on a line with Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin. However, late in the series, Hagelin got destroyed by Claude Giroux and had to leave Game 6 prior to the conclusion of the series, and has yet to play for the Penguins in the second round.
After spending a year and a half in Ottawa, Brassard was reunited with Carl Hagelin on the Penguins. Brassard has provided the Penguins with the center depth that they needed behind Crosby and Malkin. If Evgeni Malkin’s injury keeps him out of the lineup for any time, look for Brassard to slide up onto the second line behind Sidney Crosby. During the series against Philadelphia, Brassard scored three points (1G, 2A) in six games.
The former captain and heart and soul of the Rangers, Callahan returned from injury for Game 5 after missing Games 3 and 4 with an upper-body injury. Callahan scored an empty net goal to seal the game and series for the Lightning on an assist from Ryan McDonagh, something about two former Ranger captains linking up to eliminate the Devils is a beautiful thing. If Callahan is able to stay healthy, he will help to provide depth, forechecking, and physicality for the Lightning as the playoffs continue.
Dan Girardi was bought out by the Rangers this past summer and was quickly signed by the Lightning. Girardi has played a significant amount of time on the top pairing with Victor Hedman. Girardi, as we all know, is not a flashy player. However, his dependable play, coupled with a structured defensive system has allowed Hedman to play to a Norris Trophy level this season. In the playoffs, Girardi has not scored a point while playing close to 16 minutes a game. However, his stay at home play has allowed the other Lightning defenders the freedom to join the rush and contribute offensively.
The man that the Rangers allowed to walk in favor of Dan Girardi has made a home for himself in Tampa. Stralman has been a steady presence on the Lightning blue line. In the playoffs so far, Stralman has averaged close to 23 minutes a night and has contributed one point (0G, 1A) in six games so far. On a blue line with Ryan McDonagh, Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, and Dan Girardi, Stralman can fly under the radar. However, his steady play has clearly not gone under the radar for those who follow the Lightning closely.
JT Miller is the person who has benefitted most from the trade deadline. Out from under AV’s thumb, Miller has thrived as nearly a point-per-game player. Granted part of this can be attributed to playing with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, however, Miller is clearly at home on that line and not overwhelmed by the star power next to him. In the playoffs Miller has four points (1G, 3A) in six games. Look for Miller to be a big contributor as the playoffs continue.
O Captain, My Captain. Probably the hardest trade for Rangers fans to stomach, Ryan McDonagh has thrived in Tampa. With Victor Hedman as the clear top left-handed defenseman on the team, McDonagh has not had to be THE guy every single night. Additionally, joining a team with so much leadership on the roster, McDonagh does not have the added pressure that being the captain in New York brought with it. Since the trade, McDonagh scored three points (2G, 1A) in the regular season. However, in the playoffs McDonagh has scored four points (0G, 4A) while seeing 23 minutes a night in all situations.
The Rangers may not be in the playoffs, but we as fans still have plenty of reason to cheer. I, for one, will continue to support the Tampa Bay Rangers. I look forward to seeing Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, JT Miller and Ryan Callahan on the ice as the Lightning close out the Stanley Cup. Additionally, the first round pick that we get next year will make it much easier to swallow.