Pass-Fail Marks for New York Rangers' Top Stars as 2013-14 Season Winds Down

Jeremy Fuchs@@jaf78Correspondent IIIMarch 18, 2014

Pass-Fail Marks for New York Rangers' Top Stars as 2013-14 Season Winds Down

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    The New York Rangers are in a bitter fight for the playoffs. As the 2013-14 season winds down, the team will need its top stars to come up big.

    How have the team's biggest and most important players done so far? Are they living up to expectations and their hefty contracts, or are they not doing their part?

    In the following slideshow, we'll assess the performance of the Rangers' top stars this year, giving a "pass" or "fail" mark as the regular season nears its end.

Henrik Lundqvist: Pass

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    Yes, the first three months of his season were absolutely awful.

    Yes, there were questions about whether or not the team should extend his contract.

    Yes, there were times when Cam Talbot looked like the better goaltender.

    However, that can be dismissed. Since his dismal December, Lundqvist has played like one of the best goaltenders in hockey. It's no surprise that the Rangers have played some of their best hockey while Lundqvist was playing some of his best.

    When the season is over, he's not going to be happy with his numbers. A 2.50 goals-against average is decidedly un-Lundqvistian.

    With that said, he's done his part to put his team in playoff contention. He was particularly good against San Jose on Sunday, allowing just one goal against one of the best teams in the league.

    Lundqvist is still one of the best goaltenders in the world and he will be a key factor in any playoff push the Rangers make. It has not been an easy season for the Swedish netminder, but he's straightened out his game at the right time.

Rick Nash: Fail

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    Nash has certainly had some great stretches this year.

    He was utterly dominant when he scored 11 goals in January. However, he's scored just twice since. That's not good enough.

    “It’s not where I want to be,” Nash told Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record. “When I’m struggling scoring it’s the same things. I’ve got to get back to the inside. The last couple of games I’ve been stuck on the outside and I haven’t been getting my chances.”

    The Rangers need Nash to be better. They need him to get numerous quality chances per game. They need him to be a difference-maker.

    There have been flashes, for sure, and it's hard to say where the Rangers would be if Nash didn't carry them in January.

    With that said, if they want to make the playoffs and a deep run in the postseason, they will need Nash to be better. It's that simple.

    His two-goal game against Ottawa was a start, but one game does not a season make. If he can produce consistently throughout the rest of the season, then his grade will turn into a "pass."

Brad Richards: Pass

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    Given what the Rangers are paying Brad Richards, 46 points just isn't good enough.

    Given how poorly he played last season, however, 46 points is a revelation.

    Last season, Richards had 34 points in 46 games. This year, he has 17 power-play points and 16 goals. He has taken more shots and been more confident on the power play, as he quarterbacks the league's 12th-ranked unit.

    Is he doing enough to live up to his contract? No. Has he been a useful and important player? Absolutely. This season has been a completely different story for Richards. Since the trade of Ryan Callahan, he's taken on more of a leadership role.

    He is a vitally important player to this team and the Rangers will need him to continue to produce. 

Ryan McDonagh: Pass

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    Ryan McDonagh is probably the Rangers' MVP.

    The 24-year-old averages nearly 25 minutes a game, shutting down the opposition's best players. He is also taking on more of an offensive role, as evidenced by his 12 goals and 25 assists, giving him a career high in points.

    McDonagh shuts down his side of the ice. He is an incredible skater, so he is never truly out of position. He plays in all situations and has allowed the Rangers to overcome a number of turnovers by the skill players.

    Without McDonagh, it's hard to imagine where the Rangers would be. He should be in the Norris Trophy conversation given how well he's played.

    Other than Lundqvist, McDonagh is probably the Rangers' most important player. Having a shutdown defender like him is incredibly valuable come playoff time.

Martin St. Louis: Fail

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    It's impossible to judge a player after eight games.

    But when a team gives up so much to get said player, it doesn't matter how many games are played. That player will be judged.

    So it is for Marty St. Louis. The winger has yet to score a goal for his new team, only registering three assists over that span.

    He spoke with Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record about his troubles:

    Obviously I’d love to have more production to speak about but there’s a lot of games in the past where I played way worse and somehow you find some production so you have to be honest in your assessment. Am I playing great? No. but I’ve played way worse than this. I think every day I feel better. I think it’s going to get like that. Every day it’s going to get better.

    St. Louis has been getting chances, some glorious ones included. He has been making some incredible passes and his speed has reverberated throughout the lineup.

    However, the Rangers have scored two or fewer goals or in four of his eight games with the club. The Rangers brought St. Louis in to improve the offense. If anything, it's remained the same.

    Therefore, he needs to pick up his game. Maybe it'll click one game. It's hard to join a new team and make an immediate impact, no matter how talented you are.

    Make no mistake, St. Louis is talented. That has been on display in every game he's played in New York. For now, though, his performance has simply not been good enough.