New York Rangers: Four First-Year Rangers Who Will Make Major Impact in Playoffs
With the playoffs less than two weeks away, the races are shaping up in the Eastern Conference. The Western Conference is only growing more intense and confusing by the day.
As the Rangers prepare for their final four games of the regular season, they are back to playing their best hockey of the season as evidenced by Friday night's performance against the Montreal Canadiens.
With the playoffs set to begin April 11th, let's take a look at four first-year Rangers who could make a significant impact in the postseason.
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Brad Richards has been one of the most consistent players in the National Hockey League for 11 years.
He has averaged almost 50 assists and 70 points per season in his career. While this season marks his lowest totals since his shortened 2008 season, his play of late is more up to Richards' usual standards.
In the month of March, Richards has totaled 22 points in only 17 games (seven goals, 15 assists). He currently is sitting on a four-game point scoring streak which has seen him total seven points.
Highlighting his play of late has been the chemistry between Richards and Marian Gaborik. Richards has assisted on the last four of Gaborik's goals and combined with Carl Hagelin, has been the most potent line for the Rangers.
The deadly combination of Gaborik and Richards will prove tough to defend down the stretch. Also, don't count out Richards and Coach John Tortorella's shared Stanley Cup experience as a huge benefit for the young Rangers.
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Despite Mike Rupp's lessening ice time in the past few weeks, his presence can still be felt, especially by members of Rangers' opponents. Currently, Rupp has been credited with 97 hits and 92 penalty minutes this season.
Besides Rupp's physical play, he is a smart two-way forward who has playoff experience. Rupp's first playoff goal which proved to be the Stanley Cup clincher, came in the 2002-2003 season with the New Jersey Devils. He is the only player ever to have his first playoff goal be the Stanley Cup's clinching goal.
The combination of his size, hockey intelligence and playoff experience, will give the Rangers even more confidence.
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I believe this image says it all. Carl Hagelin skated through those cones about as easily as he's skated around NHL teams this season.
The addition of Hagelin to the Rangers' roster this season has provided a major spark in terms of energy, as well as improved the speed of the Rangers. While there are speeding bullets such as Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin on the roster, the Rangers are average in terms of team speed (sorry Prust).
Hagelin can get down the rink and beat the defenders or negate an icing better than most in the league. His skating ability has been a factor in many of the team's offensive chances this season and has played a role in at least 10 of his 14 goals.
He is matched with a full deck of line-mates including Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, the hottest line for the team the past two months. Look for Hagelin to be a huge spark much like Sean Avery was in the Devils' series a few years back, minus the physical side and the stick waving in front of Brodeur.
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Stralman is an interesting player for the Rangers. He has been the victim of the Tortorella doghouse a lot in the past few weeks. Given the opportunity to play against the Canadiens, Stralman played an all-around solid game.
Despite not knowing or expecting much from Stralman at the beginning of the season, we can be pretty happy with the result. After beginning the season as only a camp invitation, Stralman is plus-10 with 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) with the Rangers, all career highs.
He blends well with a team built on effort and a willingness to be physical, something he may not have experienced with the Blue Jackets the past two seasons.
While Stralman probably will not play a part in many points come playoff time, look for his defensive ability and effort to help keep the three defensive lines solid.