Stock Up, Stock Down for New York Rangers' Top Stars
The New York Rangers are in a fight for the playoffs. If they are going to make it, they will need their biggest stars to come up.
So how are those top stars doing? Are they up to the task of delivering the Rangers to the playoffs? Are they falling short in any way?
We'll look at five of the biggest stars on the Rangers and evaluate whether or not their stock is up or down since the Olympic break.
Read on to find out.
Henrik Lundqvist: Slightly Up
It's been a bumpy ride for Henrik Lundqvist since returning from Sochi.
He gave up 13 goals in his first three games back, including looking pretty awful against Boston, where he gave up six goals.
But then he held the Carolina Hurricanes to two goals on Friday and shut out the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. On Tuesday against the Hurricanes, Lundqvist was stellar, despite giving up three goals in a loss.
However, let's be clear. The 'Canes have the 20th-ranked offense, while Mike Babcock, the coach of the Red Wings, ripped his team's effort against the Rangers, telling Ansar Khan of MLive.com:
We weren’t competitive enough. You got to get yourself ready to compete. As a group we weren’t good enough. As the coach of the group you got to look at yourself; this was unacceptable.
Tonight, that wasn’t good enough, period. We had a good enough team here to play better than we did.
So what do we do with this? Is Lundqvist burned out from Sochi? Possibly. Alain Vigneault told Steve Zipay of Newsday that Lundqvist, along with Ryan McDonagh, needed some rest after the Olympics:
I saw Hank and Mac and after thinking about it after the game [Sunday's 6-3 loss to Boston], I felt both those guys have had a lot of minutes this year. Yes [Rick] Nash, Cally and Hags [Carl Hagelin] are all coming back from the Olympics, but they all missed some time because of injury and obviously Zukie's [Mats Zuccarello] hurt and Step [Derek Stepan] didn't play, so I just felt that those guys needed an extra day to totally recuperate, get away from the game a little bit.
The Rangers are in a pickle. It would be great to give Lundqvist a few more days off, and while Cam Talbot has been good, the Rangers need Lundqvist to make the playoffs. And if they do reach the playoffs, will Lundqvist have enough in the tank to make a deep run?
Still, given what we know since the Olympic break, we have to say that Lundqvist's stock is slightly up. He was terrific against Detroit and Carolina making the saves when necessary. We'll wait to see how the Olympics affect him for the rest of the season.
Rick Nash: Up
In six games since the Olympics, Rick Nash has scored two goals and has two assists.
He had the game-winning goal against Chicago and the game-tying goal against Carolina.
His numbers are good, but I think his impact has been greater.
For example, Nash has essentially replaced Ryan Callahan on the penalty kill. Nash excelled in that role for Team Canada and has done the same for the Rangers. His size and speed allow him to be a weapon shorthanded, as evidenced by his leading of the rush on the short-handed goal scored by Ryan McDonagh against Carolina.
More offense would be nice, but it's hard to complain about Nash's game. He is driving to the net, setting up teammates and playing solid defense. The goals will come.
Ryan McDonagh: Up
Ryan McDonagh should be a Norris Trophy candidate.
Not only is he incredibly stout defensively, playing nearly 25 minutes per game against top competition all while grading out at an impressive plus-7, but his offensive game is on fire.
Since his return from Sochi, McDonagh has three goals and two assists. Two of those goals have come while short-handed.
It seems as if the trip to Sochi has ignited his offensive game. We're seeing him drag across the blueline more, his shot seems a bit more powerful and accurate, and he is using his incredible speed to lead and join the rush.
Is he Erik Karlsson on offense? No. But McDonagh ranks in the top 20 for points among defensemen and is eighth in goals.
That's pretty impressive. It all starts from his defensive game, where there are few better. He quickly established himself as the second-best American defender in Sochi, and he has continued that strong play with the Rangers.
He won't win the Norris—Ryan Suter most likely will—but McDonagh's name needs to be mentioned as a contender. He's been that good. And the best part for the Rangers? He's only 24 years old.
Brad Richards: Up
Being reunited with Marty St. Louis has made Brad Richards a happy man.
You can see it on the ice. There's more jump to his game—more purpose. He seems a bit faster, and his passes, especially on the power play, have been more crisp.
The acquisition of St. Louis has had a ripple effect—Richards is now centering the second line. The line of Derick Brassard, Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello—which has probably been the Rangers' most consistent line all year—is now the third line. That's impressive depth.
Richards has just one point since St. Louis was acquired, but in this case, the stats don't tell the story. The story is Richards looks like a new player. The speed and vision that made him such a hot target in free agency a few years back, that has returned. The decisiveness that helped him win the Conn Smythe trophy in 2004, that's back, too.
He looks like a different player, plain and simple. The points will start to pile up in the next few weeks, and it will be evident when the Rangers acquired St. Louis, they also essentially acquired Richards, as well.
Marty St. Louis: Too Soon to Tell
In just four games games with the Rangers, St. Louis has made a noticeable impact.
The line of St. Louis, Richards and Carl Hagelin has been electric, and St. Louis has been quite active. He already has nine shots on goal and assisted on the game-winning goal by Derek Stepan.
It's too soon to tell about his stock. After all, it's only been a few games. But we are seeing signs of what St. Louis is going to bring to this team. He's going to bring speed, offensive creativity and a veteran presence.
It's only a matter of time before St. Louis starts scoring. He's been getting some glorious chances that have just missed.
So we'll wait a bit on his stock watch. But all signs are pointing that, in a month or so, his stock will be sky high.