NY Rangers Early-Season Stock Report
The team was painted preseason Stanley Cup favorites, with nearly every hockey writer penciling them in to be the last team standing.
The Rangers then went on to win three of the next four before picking up another loss Thursday night, again at the hands of the Penguins.
So what exactly have the Rangers done wrong or done right thus far this season? Which facets of their game are lacking and which components still need to be addressed?
After the jump, we'll take a look at the Rangers' early-season stock report, highlighting different areas of the game and some specific players.
Power-play stock is down. Way, way down.
The Rangers power play this season has been a joke, frankly. Before Thursday night's game, they were 3-of-24 on the man advantage; that's a 12.5 percent conversion rate.
How is this possible when considering the personnel available to this team? Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Michael Del Zotto and Ryan Callahan; that should be the league's top unit, save for maybe Pittsburgh. Maybe.
What lowers the power-play stock even more is that Callahan has two of the three power-play goals so far this season, and he's hurt now. Things can't possibly get worse, can they?
So who's at fault here? Are the players just not clicking? Are they passing too much? Are John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan at fault here for implementing a poor power-play system? It was an abomination last year, too.
It doesn't really matter who's fault it is. This team needs to stop being cute and shoot more, and Gaborik, Nash and Callahan need to put their hardhats on and crash the net for second-chance opportunities. No more of this perimeter nonsense; it isn't working.
Penalty-killing stock is down.
The penalty kill is somewhat of a concern, but nowhere near as much as the power play is.
Before Thursday night's action, the Rangers PK was ranked 14th with an 80 percent kill percentage. Last year, they had the fifth-best penalty kill in the league, so there's room for a lot of improvement.
The biggest concern for this team's penalty-killing unit is the loss of all players that John Tortorella used when down a man.
Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko were all vital to the Rangers' success in this area last year. That can't be made more clear. Torts usually ran three forward units, which consisted of those four players and Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan. That's more than half of their unit gone.
Jeff Halpern was brought in to kill penalties and he's done a fairly good job, but he's no Prust or Fedotenko. Rick Nash has also seen a fair amount of time and he too has been decent.
But with Callahan injured now, even more players will have to step up if this PK is going to get back to where it was a year ago.
Offense stock is down.
Who would have thought this? The team brought in Rick Nash to play with Richards and Gaborik, Kreider was supposed build off of his immense playoff performance and Stepan was supposed to finally showcase his elite playmaking ability.
Well, the script has been thrown out the window.
Nash has looked good, but he still only has one goal. Kreider found himself scratched and now injured. Stepan, and even Hagelin, have zero goals and have been non-factors on most nights.
Yes, the top line has looked good; Nash has been a catalyst and Michael Del Zotto has been a revelation, as he and Marc Staal have turned that first line into a solid five-man unit. But the depth scoring is nowhere to be found.
The fear here is that the team is going to rely too much on that top line, and by the time the playoffs begin, those guys will be burnt out. Either that, or teams will figure that line out, they'll shut them down and effectively neutralize the Rangers in the process.
Defense stock is down.
The Rangers currently sit in the bottom half of the league in goals against this season.
Last year they finished third.
What's the problem? It may be conditioning and lack of game action for some of these guys. Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman and Stu Bickel look a step behind, and even Ryan McDonagh has generated some costly turnovers, which is totally unlike him.
Also, in the first four games, we saw the team collapse in front of Henrik Lundqvist even more than usual. Just when you thought the collapsing couldn't get any worse following last year's playoffs, it did.
The Bruins and Penguins had a field day in the Rangers' end moving the puck around. The Rangers just allowed them to make perimeter passes while they gathered in the slot bracing for a bomb.
The past few games, the Rangers have gotten their forecheck going more, and that's what is going to make this team successful. Until then, team defense is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Rick Nash's stock is up.
It's true, Nash has only scored one goal since joining the Rangers, and it came shorthanded.
But Rangers fans and management are more impressed with Nash than they thought they'd be. He's a game-breaker, and he's got talent this team hasn't seen since Jaromir Jagr.
His ability to carry the puck into the zone is something the Rangers have been missing since they traded Brian Leetch in 2003-04.
The puck possession he has been able to maintain has been key for the first line. He's been able to draw multiple defenders to himself, allowing guys like Gaborik and Richards the opportunity to go unmarked.
His chemistry with Del Zotto is also something that has been impressive; it seems whenever Nash brings the puck deep into an opposing team's zone, Del Zotto is cutting in to support him. Multiple chances have been generated from this.
Overall, he's been one of the Rangers' brightest spots so far this season. Now if he can start to find twine, that first line will become even more dangerous than it already is.
Henrik Lundqvist's stock is down.
Has Hank's performance really been something to worry about thus far? No. But is he performing below expectations? Certainly.
He hadn't played a competitive game in nearly eight months before the season started, and that's huge for a goaltender. So management and fans should be patient with him, but he still is not the same old Lundqvist right now.
His performance against the Flyers on Tuesday night was a step in the right direction. In the last few minutes, he came up huge with multiple saves that preserved the Rangers' one-goal lead.
Hank needs to build off that performance and put outings like the one he had against the Penguins on Jan. 20th behind him.