New York Rangers Awards for the 1st Half of the 2013-14 Season

Jeremy Fuchs@@jaf78Correspondent IIIDecember 30, 2013

New York Rangers Awards for the 1st Half of the 2013-14 Season

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    The New York Rangers are just about at the halfway point of the season, and they are 19-19-2.

    Now that we have a pretty good grasp of what this team is going to look like in the 2013-14 season, it's time to give out some awards for the first half.

    Which players have impressed and which players have disappointed? What can we expect from them going forward?

    Read on to find out. 

Best Player: Ryan McDonagh

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    Ryan McDonagh is not only the Rangers' best player, but he's been one of the best defensemen in the NHL.

    The 24-year-old has six goals and 15 assists, including nine power-play points. He's averaging 24:31 this season and plays in every situation.

    McDonagh is scheduled to play major minutes for the Americans in Sochi. He continues to play strong defensively but has added a boost of offense to his game. McDonagh leads the rush, quarterbacks the power-play and displays a wicked shot.

    In all, McDonagh is a budding star and will contend for Norris Trophies. He's the real deal, and he's keeping the Rangers in contention.  

Worst Player: Henrik Lundqvist

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    It's been an interesting season for Henrik Lundqvist, to say the least.

    The star goaltender has a 11-15-2 record, with a 2.78 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.

    For his career, Lundqvist has a 2.28 GAA and a .920 save percentage.

    So what happened?

    It's hard to say. Lundqvist still makes incredible saves, but his concentration seems a bit off and his glove hand a bit slow.

    More to the point, the transition from John Tortorella's defense-first style to Alain Vigneault's more attack-oriented philosophy has left Lundqvist on an island much more often. 

    Lundqvist will adjust, and the goalie played his best game in some time against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. Luckily for the Rangers, they are only a few points back of a playoff spot.

    But he needs to get it together soon. Not only are the Rangers reliant on him, but Sweden's Olympic hopes rest on his shoulders. Lundqvist has to find his game, find consistency and hold on to it. 

Most Improved Player: Mats Zuccarello

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    On October 24, Mats Zuccarello was benched. Before that game, he did not have a point.

    Since the benching, Zuccarello has scored eight goals and added 17 assists, including 10 power-play points. In the month of December, he has 10 points.

    Zuccarello has been arguably the Rangers' best offensive player all season. He is a wizard with the puck, with incredible vision, and he's also an incredible passer.

    More importantly, he's become a key penalty-killer and is always active on defense. He plays physically and with an edge.

    It's a pleasure watching Zuccarello play. The more he plays like this, the better the Rangers will be. 

Most Improved Unit: Power Play

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    Last season, the Rangers converted 15.7 percent of their power plays. In the postseason, it was even worse, as they converted a paltry 9.1 percent of the time.

    This season? It's quite a different story. They are ranked 11th in the league with the man advantage, converting 18.9 percent of the time. In their last game against Tampa Bay, the Rangers scored three times on the power play.

    Mats Zuccarello has been absolutely outstanding, as have Ryan McDonagh, Benoit Pouliot and Derick Brassard. There's more movement, there are crisper passes and more conversion.

    If the Rangers are to do anything special this season, they are going to need the power play to keep humming.

    The Rangers were so clearly hampered last season by their inability to get anything going on the man advantage. It's a different story this year.