The New York Rangers have had quite a season for themselves this year, propelling themselves to first in the Eastern Conference and one of the best teams in the entire NHL. The usual impressive goaltending and defense has shone, but what has really stood out this year is the Rangers' scoring.
The Rangers have been able to string across good offensive performances this season that have led to three winning streaks of over five games. Acquiring Brad Richards in the offseason certainly helped, as he propelled the Rangers' offense, causing a great output in production from all.
Over the course of the season, with injuries and some underproduction, the Rangers have shifted their lines around a bit in order to increase the production of each of their players. Looking at each player's statistics this season and their chemistry with one another, here is how I think the Rangers' lines should look heading into a game.
For the top line: Derek Stepan at center, with Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov at the wings. Many of the Rangers' win streaks came when this line was together.
Gaborik is a great scorer and Stepan is a great passer. These two should never be separated because they play so well together, which is why the two of them are among the top five points scorers for the Rangers this season.
With Anisimov, he just has not been able to perform the same way he did when he was on the line with Gaborik and Stepan. His numbers are down since he's been placed on other lines, and I think that he will start to perform better with Gaborik and Stepan back at his side.
For the next line (which is also good enough to be the top line): Brad Richards at center with captain Ryan Callahan and rookie Carl Hagelin at the wings. Callahan and Richards are the second and third highest point producers respectively, and work great together on the ice.
Carl Hagelin was in the All-Star Game for a reason. He's fast, a good scorer and a great asset on any team. Placed with the experience of Richards and the leadership of Callahan has proven to be effective this year. Hagelin's speed paired with the scoring ability of both Richards and Callahan is just as scary (if not scarier) than the Gaborik, Stepan, Anisimov line.
The third line is centered by Mike Rupp, with Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Dubinsky at the wings. This is where the Rangers' hard-nosed players who can also score will be paired up.
Mike Rupp had a fantastic showing in the Winter Classic this season, but other than that has not had much to brag about scoring wise. Fedotenko and Dubinsky also have not had the greatest scoring seasons.
So why pair them together? They all have the ability to score and I feel that they would work well together.
Rupp knows how to take the body and how to make plays; Dubinsky is improving after having a terrible start to the season; Fedotenko is tough as well as a capable scorer. If you put that together, you can have Rupp hitting people and dropping the puck off to Dubinsky, who can take it in and find Fedotenko for the score (because Dubinsky is very good with puck control.) Sounds like a pretty good line.
The fourth line is the Rangers' big checking line with Brian Boyle at the center and Brandon Prust and John Mitchell at the wings. This is the line that is going to be out there to put the hurt on, and, as we saw last night, also has the ability to score some goals.
Prust and Boyle are stronger defensively than they are offensively. They will check people and force them out of position, giving Mitchell a chance to score on breakaways, not to mention themselves if they make the right open ice checks.
The best part about all of these lines is every one of them has the potential to be a scoring line. From the top to bottom, each line is filled with great talent and is capable of working well with one another to do more than just score (for the top line) or intimidate the competition (for the checking line).
Obviously people will be swapped out here and there as changes need to be made based on the way the game is going, but these are the lines I would choose to start a game.
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