Top players playing to form are making the Rangers dangerous

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers makes a save against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 16, 2014 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers makes a save against the Flames (Photo: Gerry Thomas/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers might just have the most favorable month of games in December they’ve ever had. What remains are very winnable games and gives the Rangers a chance to lick their wounds and gain some confidence going into the New Year.

Their weekend home and home against Carolina, could be the next big step in moving up the standings. NY could come out with two more points after winning in Raleigh last night.

[su_highlight]The New York Rangers had an easy month of rest in between games. That will soon come to an end as the New Year approaches![/su_highlight]

Tonight the Rangers will start a 3 game homestead with Carolina. They then face-off against the Capitals on Tuesday and the Devils on Saturday. These are also games the Rangers should expect to win. If they want to go anywhere this season they have to be able to beat both the Devils and Capitals.

The Rangers also have a deficiency as a team in the possession game. They’re a 48.8% team Corsi and that’s well off their 13/14 mark of about 53%. This is largely due to the fact the Rangers can’t win an offensive zone faceoff.

The month ends with road games against the Stars and Panthers. The Stars couldn’t keep a beach ball out of their net right now and the Panthers are having trouble scoring. Florida is a young and inexperienced team with little in the way of offense and an inconsistent goaltender in Roberto Luongo.

Right there are twelve more points up for grabs in the month of December. If the Islanders can cool off somewhat, this could be the time to continue the winning streak and close the gap.

The Rangers top centerman Derick Brassard returns to the lineup to play in Carolina.
Rangers young centerman

JT Miller(USA Today Sports)

The Rangers had their top six centerman back for Saturdays tilt in Carolina. Brassard has arguably been the most consistent forward for the Rangers all season long. With Derick Brassard ready to play, head coach Alain Vigneault used J.T. Miller on the wing where he was more effective since his call-up from Hartford.

With Rick Nash in his third season on Broadway, 2014/2015 has been his most dominant campaign in his two full seasons and the twenty-nine games played this season. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say he’s playing better now than he ever did in his time in Columbus. His eleven game scoring streak is tied for the lead in the NHL currently and is a personal best for Rick Nash in his career in the NHL.

The Rangers announced on Friday that they’ve signed Cam Talbot to a one year contract extension for $1.45 million. The New York Rangers backup goaltender has a 14-9-2 record since taking over the backup job from embattled Martin Biron. Of Cam Talbot‘s fourteen wins, five are shutouts. He’s posted a 1.81 GAA and a .936 save percentage. It’s hard to expect him to continue on that path but if he can remain around the .920 save percentage mark, what more can you ask from a backup.

If the Rangers keep Cam Talbot for the remainder of this season and next, they have one of the best goalie tandems in the National Hockey League. At least for the near future.

One thing of note has been the play of Derek Stepan since returning from a broken fibula in training camp. He has been putting up solid numbers with

Rangers Centerman Stepan

Derek Stepan (Getty)

sixteen points in seventeen games. The underlying stats tell a slightly different story. Derek Stepan has always been a good two-way forward since he broke into the league. However, his 42.6% on ice corsi and a -5.4% corsi relative is down from his normal possession numbers.

Last season Derek Stepan was a 53% on ice corsi for and a 1.1% relitive Corsi (The teams Corsi when player is off the ice). Hopefully as the team is getting their game together, Derek Stepan will revert back to his average possession stats for his team. The Rangers as a team are not controlling the play as they did last season and they need solid two-way centerman like Stepan to lead the way in that department.

As for the goaltending, well Lundqvist is just being The King….again.

The Rangers defense is also getting a lift from Kevin Klein who leads the team with 7 goals and 11 points. Ryan McDonagh has 9 points in 10 less games and appears to be rounding into form after a should injury knocked him out for awhile.

So far this season the Rangers top players like Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, and to a degree the forgotten Ranger Carl Hagelin have been getting it done. They have also gotten solid contributions from the fourth line of Dominic Moore, Jesper Fast, and whoever they pair with them (Tanner Glass notwithstanding).

Rangers Glass has been a detriment to possession hockey

Tanner Glass (nyr)

Speaking of Tanner Glass. As a person, players around the league that know him genuinely say there aren’t many better people in the league. However, there aren’t many worse overall hockey players either.  Glen Sather made a mistake signing Tanner Glass for three years. Alain Vigneault must have had some say in bringing him here as they were together in Vancouver but he’s been terrible at driving puck possession and as a result his linemmates are not as effective when he is on the ice.

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The Rangers have settled in and they have a serious chance to win out the rest of the month. This might be their only easy month of the season in terms of competition and rest.

After December, the next three months aren’t so forgiving and it’s anybody’s guess as to how those games could go. As time goes on the Rangers are counting on getting more from Kevin Hayes as he develops on the fly. A trade could also be in the works as team decides if they’re contenders or pretenders in the playoff race. If anything the Rangers need a centerman that can win a faceoff in the offensive zone so they can control play in the attacking zone.

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I began watching the Rangers in 1990 when I was 9 years old. Soon after a lifelong friend of... More about Bob-O

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