The New York Rangers 3 Most Important Players Heading into the Season
With the start of the regular season being delayed again, NHL teams are trying to prepare like a starting pitcher waiting out a rain delay.
The difficult task of keeping the players fit and focused falls on the coaches, and the Rangers are lucky to have a great motivator like John Tortorella constantly reminding the players of what their objectives are and what it takes to achieve them.
However, words do not trump actions and even if Tortorella says and does all the right things, the players are the ones that need to execute.
The Rangers have a young roster, and youth can be impressionable.
Here are three vitally important Rangers who will largely influence how successful this team can be in 2012-13:
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The 30-year-old goaltender is not only the current holder of the Vezina Trophy, he is undoubtedly the Rangers best and most important player.
When Lundqivst is playing at his best, the whole team gets a boost of confidence. His consistency and ability to erase his teammates' mistakes allows the Rangers to play with a freedom and hunger that will help the team score goals.
Forwards and defensemen can make mistakes. Goalies need to be perfect, and the Rangers have one that's pretty close.
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After the Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals, the majority of the blame from the media and fans was assigned to a lack of goal scoring.
The Rangers made a move to address that absence by bringing in Rick Nash, a five-time All-Star forward. Much of the goal-scoring pressure will fall on Nash, especially early in the season and if/when the Rangers are in the playoffs.
Last year's top scorer and leader in points, Marian Gaborik, is recovering from shoulder surgery and will probably be absent for the start of the season. Brad Richards had the second most points last season, but at 32, he shouldn't be the focal point of the offense anymore.
Nash has the pedigree, the size, the skills, the hunger, the whole shebang to be the Rangers top offensive threat.
It is vitally important to the Rangers early and continued success for Nash to create and score goals.
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Ryan McDonagh really made a name for himself during the 2012 playoffs.
The 23-year-old defenseman spent nearly 27 minutes per game on the ice and impressed the hockey world with his speed, positioning and two-way game.
McDonagh did it in the regular season too. He led the team with a plus-25 rating while averaging just less than 25 minutes of ice time per night.
Dan Girardi was equally impressive during the postseason, especially his three game-winning goals, but Girardi is five years McDonagh's senior, and does not have the kind of speed that McDonagh possesses.
The shortened 2012-13 regular season could be a springboard for McDonagh to prove that he is one of the elite defensemen in the NHL.
If McDonagh can inspire the defensive unit the way Lundqvist inspires the whole team, the Rangers could be a force rivaling Hurricane Sandy.