New York Rangers All-Star Break Report Card: Grading Every Player at the Unofficial Mid-Point of the Season, Thoughts on the Blueshirts & More

The All-Star Break Report Card

What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. I wasn’t able to post game reviews from the last two games, due to my hectic work schedule, but I’m here now! This is one of my favorite blogs to do – the Report Card.

Since I last left you, the Rangers had one of their worst games of the season, a 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators. The Rangers rebounded in their final game before the All-Star Break, defeating the Buffalo Sabres 6-3.

Both games were completely different. In the game in Ottawa, the only player who showed up was Henrik Lundqvist. The team came out flatter than soda sitting out for hours on a hot summer day. It seemed that the team couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel and watch the NFL Conference Championships.

After that game, Lundqvist addressed the media and took some shots at his teammates. I’ve seen other writers, bloggers and fans talk about Lundqvist and wondering if he cracked. Please. This is old hat for Henry. Lundqvist, time and time again, throughout his career, has put down and called out his teammates in the media. I first noticed it after that ECF series loss against the Devils, in the lockout-shortened season.

For better or for worse, the Rangers, and who knows if they took it to heart, came out  the next game and won 6-3. This was probably the ugliest 6-3 game you’ve ever seen, even in the win. Ironically enough, the team came out scoring and it was Henrik Lundqvist that blew several leads and even gave up two goals in 60 seconds. However, the team did not call him out for his shoddy play in the game. It’s funny how it’s always ok for Hank to bury his teammates in the media, but his teammates don’t do the same to him whenever he gets shellacked, which is occurring more often as Hank gets older.

I’m sure if someone, like say Dan Girardi said, “It would be nice to have a goalie that doesn’t blow every two goal lead we give him”, everyone would be up in arms. However, when Hank gets catty about his team, no one says a word. For a guy who has never won a Cup, he sure gets away with a lot of shit. Remember, he’s the one that demanded to be the highest paid goalie in hockey. You make your bed, you lay in it too. The salary cap is killing the Rangers and Hank’s salary is the biggest on the team. If he really wanted the Cup “at all costs”, like he said, then you don’t threaten to test FA & demand the most money at your position. That money could’ve been used for someone like Carl Hagelin, who is now rejuvenated in Pittsburgh.

However, we’ll talk about Henrik Lundqvist later. Let’s get right into the Report Card!

While not a bust, Rick Nash is not producing points the way he’s being paid to do.

I wrote a quarter season report card, which you can view by clicking this link: Rangers 1/4 Season Report Card. In the past, when I’ve made predictions on this blog, I’ve linked you to them too, such as predicting Caps/Hawks Cup this year, why the Carl Hagelin trade was terrible the second it was made, etc. So for the sake of prosperity and to see how the players progressed or regressed in my view, I’ve included the grade and report from the quarter mark of the season in italics. The All-Star Break/Somewhat Past the Mid-Point of the Season Grade & thoughts are in bold. Here we go:

FORWARDS:

Quarter Season Thoughts: Mats Zuccarello – A+

Just read the last few blogs here. The games where Zucc isn’t in control of the puck are the games the Rangers are losing. When Zucc has the puck, the Rangers are winning games. Away from the scoring aspect of his game, he is the most feistiest Ranger on the ice. He’s playing an excellent all-around game. You couldn’t ask for anything more.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Mats Zuccarello B-

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: After starting off as the hottest Ranger on the ice, Zuccarello has had games where he completely disappears. He still remains one of the biggest fan favorites on the team and for good reasons. In fact, I’ve been to many games this season where I see more Zucc jerseys than Lundqvist jerseys.

As one could expect, Zucc’s scoring production dipped a bit after his torrid start. The same criticism of Zucc throughout his Rangers career is the one I’ll bring up – he needs to shoot the puck more. Too often does he make the extra pass to nowhere. Zucc’s best success is when he crashes the net. Now if he can only do that every game and consistently.  Zucc remains one of the top scorers on the team and when he’s on his game, can turn a loss into a win for the Rangers.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Rick Nash – B

Rick Nash will always be a mystery wrapped up in a riddle for the Rangers. Ranger fans want to cheer for him, but at times, he gives them no reason to. He’s one of the few Rangers who is not afraid to shoot. When he gets it all together, he can dominate and change a game. You look at his salary and it makes you mad a bit. The Rangers need the Rick Nash that played in Columbus, not the one that shows up every few nights like a nostalgia act. He’s not playing bad either, and usually leads the team in the Shots on Goal department each game, but he needs to be consistent in the putting the puck in the back of the net stat. He’s quietly (Due to scoring multiple goals in games) tied for second on the team with 8 goals. In reality, Nash won’t be judged on what happens in the regular season anyway. It’s something to talk about now, but the only thing that his Ranger career will be judged on is what happens in the playoffs.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Rick Nash – B

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: What I wrote at the quarter mark of the season is basically what I could copy and paste and leave it at that. Bottom line, Nash is playing well. He drives to the net. Usually leads the team in shots. Creates the most chances.  What he doesn’t do is score goals, which is maddening.

Usually, Nash has a good regular season, production wise, then disappears in the playoffs. While he’s playing good hockey, he’s not scoring. When you’re paid $7.8M a year, that’s not enough. If Nash was a guy making $3.5M a year, you would say he’s playing great and out of this world. However, when you look at Nash’s peers, contract wise, like Ovechkin, Malkin, Perry, Kane, etc, Nash can’t even sniff their jocks.

As I wrote at the quarter-mark, even if Nash doesn’t score another goal in the regular season, but lights it up in the playoffs, no one will give a crap about how poor he played, production wise, during the regular season.

As of this writing, Nash has missed the last two games with a bone bruise. He is expected back after the break. The Rangers need him out there.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Derrick Brassard – B

Brassard has improved his faceoff game and has been another key contributor in the Rangers top line. The common knock on him is always the same – SHOOT THE PUCK! Too many times this season has Brassard, like most of these Rangers, opted to make the extra pass, which turns into a turnover, rather than just blasting away. Look at it this way, most of the time, these extra passes go nowhere. Even if the goalies stop your slapper, there’s a chance for a rebound or a deflection. Look at how McDonagh has been doing with his bomb. He’s produced a few goals off his stick, and has assisted on a few too. Brassard has been consistent, as he has been his entire Ranger run.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Derrick Brassard – B

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: Just like Nash, what I wrote for Brassard several months ago, reapplies here. Brassard is capable of stealing games and having multi-point games. He’s also capable of having games where you didn’t even know he put on his skates. Brassard closed out his final game before the break with a 2 goal game.  While you know you’re not going to get 4-5 point games every night out of Brassard, you want to see him take his shots and not overplay the puck. The extra pass has to stop.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Derek Stepan- A-

Stepan has also been consistent at center. We are still awaiting the fate of Stepan, and I’ll talk more about him in the section below. Stepan has been producing nicely on offense. As a member of the PP and PK, the Rangers are really going to miss his stick on the ice. Hopefully he gets back soon. Don’t forget, this is the man who played with a broken jaw in the playoffs two years ago. He is one tough son of a bitch.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Derek Stepan- B-

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: Stepan missed some games after a dirty hit in Boston from Marchand. Stepan, like his fellow centerman, Brassard, is capable of stealing games too, and is also just as capable of disappearing.  This off-season, Stepan asked and got the big money. When you look at his peers around the league, you expect more goals from Stepan. Stepan also has had a rough go of it lately, as it seems he’s constantly getting injured, which is because of the way he puts his body on the line in every game. The Rangers need him healthy for this stretch and into the playoffs.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Kevin Hayes – C-

Sophomore jinx? Whatever it is, Hayes, who does have a few goals this season, is not playing up to his potential. Sometimes I want to strangle him and not just because he’s a Red Sox fan! What drives me nuts about Hayes is that he will not shoot the puck. I’ve been to about 10-12 games this season and it’s the same shit every time. I’ve seen him pass while being the lead man on a breakaway. I’ve seen him wide open in front of the net and pass behind him. He’s always moving the puck backwards. AV needs to tell him to be a puck-hog or something. Maybe it’s because he’s one of the younger guys on the team, and prefers to defer, but he has raw talent and he needs to show it.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Kevin Hayes- F

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: With Etem gone, you can make the case that Kevin Hayes is the worst player on the team. He’s a turnover machine. Several times this year, with a wide open net, Hayes has either airmailed it, shot it like Blair Walsh kicking a field goal to win a game or wiffs at it. He’s skated with his head down a lot this season, which has opened himself up to take big hits and turnover the puck more frequently.

Hayes was a healthy scratch for two games during the season due to his horrible play. For a guy in a contract year, Hayes is doing nothing to help himself. Once thought to be the future of this team, Hayes is playing like he deserves to be challenging for a spot on the Wolfpack roster.

Something has to give with Hayes. The Rangers have been and are in  “win-now” mode. The Rangers can ill-afford someone currently playing like Hayes in the line-up come the playoffs. Let’s hope Hayes can turn his unlucky 13 jersey into something, because he’s playing the worst hockey of his career.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Chris Kreider – C+

Someone put out an APB on Kreider. Sure, he has few tallies this season, but man, we are all still waiting for the real CK to show up. Many paid writers, NHL scouts and the Rangers themselves had CK having a breakthrough season. CK is in a contract year and he’s doing nothing to show the Rangers why he should get Zucc or even Stepan money right now. I think he’ll put it all together eventually, but with 1/4 of the season over, you hope it comes sooner than later.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Chris Kreider – C+

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: His “Mom’s Trip” weekend games aside, Kreider has had a horrible season.  He’s not scoring. He’s loose with the puck. He isn’t even the same agitator he used to be. However, at the time of this writing, Kreider started to turn the corner a bit. Let’s hope that corner is turned all the way and Kreider streaks into the playoffs. It’s been a rough season, thus far for Kreider.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Oscar Lindberg – A

The rookie is making a case for the Calder Trophy, especially with Conor McDavid being injured. Oscar, playing on the third line, is tied with Nash for the most goals on the team, with 8. (Zucc leads the team with 10.) He’s had a few defensive lapses, but for a rookie, Oscar is playing well beyond anyone’s expectations.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Oscar Lindberg – B

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: At one point in the season, Lindberg was a legit candidate for the Calder. While he’s not that anymore, Lindberg has proven himself as a true NHLer. I guess it was tough to expect Lindberg to keep scoring the way he was to start the season, but it has been pleasant to see him play well and hold his own every game.  Lindberg has been a welcome addition to this team.

Quarter Season Thoughts: JT Miller – C-

Miller is slumping as of late. Miller, who does have four goals, has been a horror show in the turnover department and just being beat by his man. I think he misses Carl Hagelin at times (we all do), as Hagelin’s speed helped out Miller when they were on the same line. He needs to tighten up big time.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: JT Miller – B

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: Just like Kreider, JT Miller has gotten hot lately. The sweet sounds of “MILLER TIME”, you know, that sound the puck makes when it crosses the goal line, has been heard often lately. As Miller started to score goals, you can see his confidence grew too. He’s comfortable with his game. He’s shooting more. He’s passing better. He’s driving to the net more. It might be Miller, not Kreider or Hayes, that gets the biggest contract from the Rangers, come the off-season.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Viktor Stalberg – C

Stalberg seems just there to me. He’s not playing bad and he’s not playing great either. He’s a grinder and doing his job well. At the same time, he’s expendable. It would be nice to see more production, offensively, out of him.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Viktor Stalberg – B-

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: While I do think Stalberg is an extra body that could easily be replaced on this team, he’s been playing better as the season moved along. He’s only had one horrible game this season, but has had 5-6 really good ones. For the Rangers, his goals have come at big moments in games, as opposed to Rick Nash and his empty netter or blowout game “A-Rod” goals. You would just like to see Stalberg shoot a bit more.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Dominic Moore – C

Moore, a fan favorite, and who will ever forget his series ending goal against the Canadiens two years ago, has regressed a bit. One of the better Rangers on the draw, the Rangers are getting solid ice time out of Moore. Like Boyle, we’ve seen Moore scratched a few times. I would expect to see Moore scratched more often as the regular season starts winding up. The Rangers want one of their elder players ready for the playoff run.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Dominic Moore B-

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: Moore is playing decent this season. While his production numbers have slipped, Moore is doing well at the dot and has played good defense too. Rarely do you see Moore cough up a bad turnover. He’s executing his job well, as the Rangers 4th line/grinder/kill time centerman.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Jesper Fast – C

Jesper Fast came on strong last year and has shown glimpses of his game at a top level this season. However, he’s still a young guy, perhaps learning on the job too much, as he’s made some costly turnovers and has had some pretty bad defensive lapses. With only 3 goals and the lowest plus/minus (1) on the team, Fast needs to improve.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Jesper Fast – B-

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: Fast has improved offensively and has been passing the puck well.  While not playing as well as one of his counterparts, JT Miller, Fast is coming into his own. Can he become a big time points producer? Jury is out on that.

NEW ADDITIONS:

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Tanner “F’N” Glass

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Tanner Glass – B+

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: Glass, who spent the majority of the season with the Wolfpack, until injuries to the main roster, has reclaimed his spot on the fourth line. His production made the worthless Emerson Etem even more expendable.

Glass rejoined the team just in time for the first game with the Islanders. Glass picked a fight with anyone and defended his teammates. While Glass will never score, we are starting to see the player AV sees and knows on a daily basis. We always heard Glass was great for the locker room. While his grade might be high, it’s because of the jolt he gave the team and how he’s performing in his role as a fourth line winger.

Other new additions this season included Danny Paille, Jason Megna, Brady Skjei and Magnus Hellberg. None of these players logged enough games to make a true assessment. I don’t understand why the Rangers added more to their cap woes with Paille. Megna has shown glimpses of what he can do, but can he do it every game? Hellberg, with height like Ben Bishop of Tampa, looked shaky in net. Give me Skapski any day! Skjei has shown the most promise, but the Rangers have a logjam of defensemen as it is.

THE DEPARTED:

Quarter Season Thoughts: Emerson Etem – F

What a fucking waste. When you see me go apeshit about player contracts, especially Hank’s deal that puts the Rangers in cap hell until it expires, it’s because of guys like Etem. Etem does not belong on this team. Carl Hagelin does. Etem was described as a poor man’s Carl Hagelin when he got here. He’s not even a poor man’s 2014-2015 Emerson Etem right now. Hate to say it, but I would rather have Tanner Glass than Etem as the guy who’s usually a healthy scratch. I think Glass gives you more punch than the minimal production we’ve seen out of Etem thus far.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Emerson Etem –  F————————————————

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: Goodbye and good riddance. I’ve wasted enough time on this site (Check the archives, located on the right hand side of the site) talking about Etem and how the Rangers fucked up trading Hagelin.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Jarrett Stoll – C

Busted with cocaine prior to this season, maybe Stoll could use a toot to get his game going. Or maybe he’s having constant sex with his girlfriend, Erin Andrews. That would explain why he looks so tired and flat-footed at times.  The Rangers have enough guys who are interchangeable. it would be nice to see Stoll take advantage of this contract and parlay it into bigger and better things. It would benefit himself and the team nicely.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Jarrett Stoll – F

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: Stoll and the Rangers never worked out. It seemed the game had passed him by a bit. Brought in for faceoffs, he wasn’t even dominating in that department. The Rangers have many centers on the roster and on the Wolfpack that are simply just better. That said, I expect Stoll to put up a hat-trick against the Rangers whenever the Wild come in town.

“The Undertaker” Dylan McIlrath has been burying pucks and bodies this season!

DEFENSEMEN:

Quarter Season Thoughts: Ryan McDonagh – B+

Ryan has really stepped up his offensive game and on pace to score the most amount of goals in his career. He’s always reliable when it comes to shutting down the other team. So why not the A? The Captain, too many times this season, has made a bad turnover that has turned into a breakaway the other way. His snafu in Tampa cost the Rangers at least the overtime point. Mac just needs to be more protective of the puck.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Ryan McDonagh – A-

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: McDonagh continues to have one of his best offensive seasons of his career. Norris candidate? You can talk about him, but Klingberg of Dallas looks to have that wrapped up. I really have no issues with Mac’s play on the ice. You can talk turnovers, but turnovers are going to happen at this level since every team has great players.

The one thing I wonder is how he is in the locker room. One of the youngest Rangers captains ever, I wonder what he said during the the last 6 weeks of this Rangers slide. This is where the Rangers miss a Martin St. Louis, who Mac could’ve turned to for advice. We know Mark Messier would go nuts and would speak out in the media when the Rangers played like shit. I would like to see Mac openly be more assertive.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Dan Girardi – B-

One of the warriors on the Rangers, Dan has been blocking shots like Dikemebe Mutombo. You would like to see more out of him offensively. Like McDonagh, Dan needs to be more aware, especially when it comes to passing the puck. Girardi started off slow, lost his top pairing spot but has since come on stronger to regain the job back. I do agree with the majority though – he’s overpaid.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Dan Girardi C+

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: Girardi has led the Rangers in turnovers this season. Angry memories of Alex Martinez in Game 5 come to mind.  He’s been bumped around from the first pair to the second pair this season. Girardi & McDonagh go together like peanut butter and jelly, but sometimes, even jelly turns over and gets stale. With a gi-normous contract, Girardi has created alot of detractors within the Rangers fanbase. He won’t be traded, because he has a no-move clause and really, who would take his contract? Girardi is a great defender but needs to be better with the puck, ASAP.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Kevin Klein – A-

It might be unpopular to say, but Klein may be the best defenseman on the team right now. He has played a strong defensive game and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen him prevent goals this season. Klein contributes to the offense and played so well, that he took Girardi’s job for a bit there. He won’t get any Norris mentions, but he is one of the most underrated defensemen in the entire NHL

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Kevin Klein – B+

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: Klein hasn’t played bad, but he hasn’t been as productive as he once was. Klein has battled several injuries this season.  Klein is one of the unsung heroes of the Rangers. Just like Marc Staal, you don’t talk about him much after games, as say you do about Dan Girardi, because he’s doing his job. Klein has been better offensively, and you would like to see that return.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Marc Staal – B-

I feel every time I write about Staal, it’s the same thing. He’s overpaid too, because he is just a defensemen’s defenseman. You get no offense out of him. At the same time, you’re not screaming out his name, because he is barely beat nor making turnovers. He’s one of the best defenders in the league and he’s not going to change his game now, but it would be nice to see him accumulate some points.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Marc Staal B-

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: You know what you’re gonna get from Staal every game. Rinse, wash, repeat. Everything I said at the quarter season mark applies here as well. He makes too much money for just being a second pair lockdown defender with no offensive output.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Keith Yandle – B-

I may have some personal bias against Yandle, because I will never forgive Sather for that horrible trade to bring Yandle here! Think the Rangers could use Duclair’s offense right now? Yandle is playing solidly, but for a guy who was brought here to be the best scoring defenseman the Rangers have ever had since Brian Leetch, well I’m not seeing it. Yandle hasn’t been awful, but he hasn’t been amazing either. I would like to see him, like most of these guys, shoot the puck more, rather than seeing the eye color of the goalie before taking a shot.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Keith Yandle B+

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: I’ve talked about Yandle a lot in these blogs. I’m going to lose my fucking shit when the Rangers trade him for next to nothing because Yandle will be a UFA at the end of the season.  DUCLAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Horrible trade aside, Yandle is playing great, but like everyone else asks, why is he on the third pair sometimes? Why is he on the second PP unit? Is it worth trying two left hand sticks on the first unit and pair Yandle with Mac? For what the Rangers gave up for Yandle, I would hate to see him go, unless the Rangers can somehow pull out Stamkos out of their ass. Remember, Dan Boyle will be gone after this season and the Rangers could keep Yandle here, if Yandle wants to stay for a likely rebuild.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Dan Boyle – C+

I have still never understood why Senile Sather let Anton Stralman walk, to sign Dan Boyle for the same amount of money. The deal on Boyle thus far is simple – he’s not the Dan Boyle of his prime. However, is the 2015 version of Dan Boyle better than the 2015 version of Dylan McIlrath? It’s a tough question to answer. Boyle still shows you flashes of offensive brilliance, but also shows you what a liability he can be on defense on the next play. Boyle, who has been scratched in favor of McIlrath, is most likely sitting because the Rangers want old man Boyle ready for the playoffs. Boyle & McIlrath are so different, that against a smaller team, you may prefer Boyle’s offense, but against a bigger team, you may want McIlrath and those fists out there.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Dan Boyle – B-

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: As I’ve said for a while, I think Boyle should be moved to a forward and let McIlrath play on D every day. Boyle’s offense is good, but still, I don’t know if Dan Boyle, right now, is better than McIlrath, even on Boyle’s best day. We all know the story on Boyle and there are games where he is good and there are some games where you get so mad, that you are pulling the hair out of your ass.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Dylan McIlrath – C+

Dylan would’ve flourished in the old days of hockey. Let’s face it, he’s a goon. However, he’s trying hard to shed the goon label, as he’s been working with former Rangers great, Jeff Beukeboom on his game. He’s better than he was, that’s for sure. He has been beaten to the puck routinely by the opposition and is still looking for his first NHL point. However, he’s not there to score. The way he defended Stepan is the reason why he’s on the ice. The best is yet to come for the man they call “The Undertaker”, but do you want Boyle on the bench in the playoffs?

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Dylan McIlrath – B

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: McIlrath got a lot of playing time when Klein went down with an injury. With two goals in limited time, he’s the best he’s ever been offensively. You can see some teams don’t get nasty or play dirty when McIlrath is out there. I think he should be starting every game, but I’m not AV.

Raanta has been good, but Talbot was better!

GOALIES

Quarter Season Thoughts: Henrik Lundqvist – A

Depending on how you enjoy hockey, along with Mats Zuccarello, he’s one of the Rangers MVP candidates this season. He’s off to the best start of his career. Everyone knows the positives about Hank. Two things though I have to say. He needs to stay in the net. Enough with the coming out and making these horrendous passes that become turnovers. Hank is a classic butterfly goalie, not Martin Brodeur. The other thing is for a guy called “King”, he has let down his country in crunch time. A few of the Rangers minimal losses this season have come late into the third period (Tampa & Boston come into mind), via bad goals.  He’s still one of the top 3 goalies in the league, but due to his contract and body of work, the expectations are high for Hank.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Henrik Lundqvist – B-

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: I’ve talked about Lundqvist so much on this blog. That’s an easy archive search for sure! The skinny: Lundqvist dominated the start of the season and looked like he was in his 2012 Vezina form. However, after 25 games, Lundqvist shat the bed and was completely awful. There was even a stretch where he was benched/pulled 4 times in 7 games. However, Lundqvist rebounded and has played well in the last two weeks. For the money he’s paid, Lundqvist can’t afford to have bad games. The Rangers built this team around his contract so it’s up to him to be great every night.

Lundqvist is currently ranked 20th or worse in total goals allowed, GAA and save percentage. Hardly regal. Will the faux King ever get his crown? I hope so. He deserves it.

Quarter Season Thoughts: Antti Raanta – A

The Rangers have hit a nice stretch when it comes to back-up goalies ever since Biron retired. Talbot had better numbers than Hank last year, and led the team to the President’s Trophy. Skapski was unbeatable last year. Now here’s Raanta, who has been lights out. With a 4-1 record, Raanta has been more than advertised. His one loss vs Philly wasn’t his fault, as the Rangers not only shit the bed, they shit on the mattress, the box spring, the curtains and everywhere else in the room. You couldn’t ask for anything more from 32. The Rangers will need Raanta to keep this up as the season goes on, as the goal is to have Lundqvist 100% for the playoffs.

ALL STAR BREAK GRADE: Antii Raanta

ALL STAR BREAK THOUGHTS: B+

Raanta played more games in the first quarter of the season then he did in the second quarter of the season. Part of that was because the Rangers had days off in-between games and because the Rangers lost so many games that they wanted their best option in net, even if Hank should’ve had a breather.  Raanta suffered an injury, a concussion, right before the X-mas break but was back for the New Year. I don’t think Raanta can be a starting goalie in the NHL, like last year’s back-up the incredible future Vezina Cam Talbot, but he’s playing good hockey. I will give that Senile Sather some credit, ever since Biron retired, he’s found a great back-up for Hank.

He’s called “King” but has no crown? LOL

For the most part, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has had it easy here in NY. He was the Rangers King Midas. With not even 3 full seasons under his belt, you can argue he’s already one of the best coaches in NYR history, based on his winning percentage and playoff success.

For the first time in his tenure, we’ve actually seen idiots say AV needs to go. GET FUCKING LOST!

It’s not AV’s fault if his overpaid gang of millionaires don’t perform. That game in Ottawa? That’s AV’s fault? Hank being lit up like a Xmas tree for three weeks? That’s his fault? Hank complaining about his teammates in the media? That’s his fault? Rick Nash not scoring? That’s on AV too?

I said it at the start of the season, I blame the Rangers failures on Glen Sather. He really fucked up this team with his trades, signings and letting people walk. I would still love to have Carl Hagelin, Anthony Duclair, Derek Dorsett and Anton Stralman here. Going back even further, I would’ve loved to still have Jagr here!

As I’ve said all season, the Rangers will ultimately be judged on their success or dare I say, lack thereof, in the playoffs. The regular season is a trial run for the real deal in April. I hope to be watching Blueshirt hockey in shorts during June. Unfortunately, in my opinion, I just don’t see it happening.

The Rangers need to make trades. I did a blog about possible trade scenarios already, and you can find that blog in the archives. As much as Ranger fans want Stamkos, hasn’t Tampa Bay fleeced the Rangers enough? Plus, who could TB possibly want from the Rangers?

The problem with this cap era is you don’t see too many big trades any more. Many guys are locked into No-Trade clauses. I think the Rangers need to do something to their roster, a whole lot more than Danny Paille to make a serious Cup run. As much as they need some pieces, they also need their players from within to produce.

Rick Nash needs to wake the fuck up and score. Kreider looks to be playing better but he needs to keep this up. Ditto Brassard. Kevin Hayes looks like he’s had 10 lobotomy’s out there at times. He needs to get his head out of his ass.

As far as a team strategy, the Rangers are too predictable. It’s always a dump and chase game with them. They overpass too much, where defenders are playing the pass, rather than a potential shot. The powerplay needs to improve. The Rangers do need to mix it up a bit, as they’ve been scouted.

One thing that always goes against the Rangers, is that due to their success over the last four seasons, other teams come up to play them. The Rangers are a measuring stick for some teams. They are like the Yankees in the 90’s years – other teams give them their best stuff. Plus, playing an Original 6 team, in the famous Madison Square Garden is another reason why teams get amped to play them. I’m not making excuses for the Rangers shoddy play at times this season, but the Rangers do get the best from their opponents.

I can’t wait to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame in February!

If you know me personally, I don’t need to explain anything to you. However, with this blogs ever-expanding readership, at times, I feel I got to give you some info. I’m a realistic Rangers fan. Do I want the Rangers to win the Cup every season? Of course. I just don’t see how this team does it, at the present time. Readers/tweeter people will say I’m too hard on Lundqvist, but am I really? Look what other fans/non-Ranger writers say about him. He will be King to me when he hoists that Stanley Cup in the air. I hope I see that day.

After visiting Edmonton and Alberta earlier this season, and hitting up the usual away games like the Islanders and the Devils (Rangers return 2/2 against one of their biggest rivals), I’m looking forward to attending a game in Toronto for the first time. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Hockey Hall of Fame and eagerly await to step through its hallowed halls on February 20th!

How are you spending your All-Star Break? For me, I’m trying to finish a book I started two weeks ago, “The Battle of Alberta”, penned by Mark Spector. Time permitting, I’ll try to get a review of it up here. I’m 100 pages down, it’s just getting the time to finish it, with real life and the job and all.

I’m crossing my fingers I do not have to work overtime at my job Saturday, as I plan on attending a Hartford Wolfpack game to see what’s going on in the system. Again, this blog is a hobby, not a job, and if I get the time, I plan on reviewing/spewing about that experience too!

Thanks again to everyone who’s been reading and following along. There’s plenty of hockey left for the Rangers to make a run. However, before that, I’m really looking forward to this 3 vs 3 ASG. I’m glad Hank isn’t in it either. That game can be a motherfucker for goalies.

Enjoy the break, drink some beer and come in ready to go. It all picks back up 2/2 against the Devils at the Rock. If you’ve never been to the Rock for a game, and yes, I know it’s in shitty Newark, you owe it to yourself to  check a game out there. It truly is one of the best venues in hockey.

Win or lose,

Forever and always,

LET’S GO RANGERS!

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on the tweet tweet

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