It's been an interesting 2013-14 season for the New York Rangers.
After a brutal nine-game road trip to start the season, the Rangers seemingly had found their way in November.
But December has been rough and now the Rangers sit out of the playoff race with a 16-17-1 record.
What is this team? Are they a playoff squad? Can they reach the lofty heights that many—myself included—thought they could reach during the offseason?
What are the biggest storylines surrounding the team? And which ones are destined to never go away?
We'll dive in and tell you, after the jump.
So what the heck happened to Henrik Lundqvist?
The goaltender, who just received a monster contract extension, has clearly not been himself this season.
For his career, Lundqvist has a .920 save percentage and a 2.27 goals-against average.
This year? A .909 save percentage and a 2.71 GAA. That's a big difference.
He's letting in goals he normally doesn't. He looks a tick slow.
It's possible this is just a phase and he gets it together. Lundqvist has shown moments of greatness, most notably his 41-save masterpiece against Dallas.
But it's not the same. If Lundqvist can't figure his game out, the Rangers will not make the playoffs. Simple as that.
Could Chris Kreider win the Calder Trophy?
It's possible. Take a look at how he stacks up against the competition:
|Tomas Hertl||San Jose||15||9||24|
|Tyler Johnson||Tampa Bay||8||10||18|
|Chris Kreider||New York||8||10||18|
That's an incomplete list, but you get the point. Kreider is in the mix. He's also done it in only 27 games, six less than Krug and Johnson.
It's going to be hard to unseat Hertl, or even Seth Jones. But think of it this way: When have the Rangers had a rookie as good as Kreider? Not in a long, long time.
He's getting Olympic consideration. And the scary part? He has a lot more potential.
Hold on, Rangers fans. It's going to be a fun ride with this kid.
Larry Brooks wrote convincingly in the New York Post about how the Rangers really miss Brandon Prust:
The problem is, the Rangers have no one to supply energy the way Prust did; no one to jump-start the team and infuse his teammates with hockey courage the way No. 8 did during his tour on Broadway that ran for less than 2.5 seasons.
Derek Dorsett does his best and has a whopping 101 penalty minutes.
But he's not as good as Prust. The Rangers seemingly do not play with enough fire, enough heart, enough soul. They should be a much better team than they are.
Yet their play is lackadaisical, they aren't physical enough, and teams have no problem bullying them.
So where's the fire going to come from? Is it through a trade? Does recent call-up Dylan McIlrath, who seemingly provided some spark Sunday night, get the job done?
Whatever it is, the Rangers need to play a grittier game. Otherwise, they'll stay as a mediocre team.
Is Rick Nash really a star?
There's no doubting his talent, and he makes some sick moves.
But is he the type of game-breaker the Rangers thought they were getting when they traded away Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov?
I'm not sure, to be honest. I do know the Rangers have missed Dubinsky and Anisimov, who have combined for 35 points with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
And I do know that Nash is not a lock for the Canadian Olympic team, something that would've seemed preposterous a few years ago.
Yes, he has his moments. But it's not every game. He's a liability on defense, and he has yet to take over a game this year.
Maybe he still needs time to return from his concussion. Fair enough. Concussions are tricky.
But with every passing game, it seems like the Rangers may have made the wrong move in trading for him.
And since he's signed through 2018, the Rangers will have a long time to ponder it.
B/R's own Dave Lozo and Adrian Dater went over this very question the other day, the summary of which you can read here.
Both make good points. It's true the Rangers needed a change from the abrasive style of John Tortorella.
But look how bad the defense is. The Rangers give up 2.7 goals per game, 15th in the league. The Canucks? They gave up 2.3 goals per game, sixth in the league.
And it's very possible that Henrik Lundqvist's rough season has to do with the departure of Tortorella's defense-first style.
We'll never know what would've happened had the team kept Torts. All we do know is that Vancouver is soaring, and New York is plummeting.
Makes you think, no?