Final Report Card for the New York Rangers' 2013-14 Season
With a heartbreaking double-overtime loss in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, the New York Rangers’ season is over. The Blueshirts had an amazing playoff performance when you consider the obstacles they overcame at the start of the season and how they came together as a team during the playoffs.
The ledger will show a 4-1 series win by the Los Angeles Kings. It will not show the amount of posts the Rangers hit, the amount of deflections that went just wide or the amount of questionable calls that altered the momentum of a game.
The Kings are a talented hockey team that deserves all the credit in the world, but unfortunately, it’s unlikely the Rangers will get the respect they deserve from their performance in this series.
This report card will take a look at the team’s overall production from the regular season and the playoffs, and a final grade will be assigned to each category. Here’s a final look at the 2013-14 Rangers’ season.
Playoffs Top Three: Ryan McDonagh, 17 points | Martin St. Louis, 15 points | Derek Stepan, 15 points
In 2013, Mats Zuccarello had a breakout season that included 19 goals and 40 assists for 59 points in 77 games. He is a restricted free agent this summer, and if re-signed, he is a player who can continue to be a difference-maker for the Rangers. He was one of the best forwards in the playoffs, and he showed that his regular-season success was not a fluke.
One of the Rangers’ strengths during the regular season was their ability to score by committee. The Blueshirts had two 20-goal scorers and six players with at least 15 goals. Plus, Ryan McDonagh rounded out the group with 14 goals.
When you look at that on paper, it looks pretty good. These players contributed from 33 to 59 points, and that is solid as a team. However, this Rangers lacked an offensive game-breaker who could be counted on, and that is what held them back in the playoffs.
Rick Nash spent 17 games on injured reserve, and he was rusty upon his return. He was terrible offensively in the Cup Final, and his playoffs can be summed up with a missed empty net in Game 5 after the puck deflected off the stick of Slava Voynov.
Brad Richards had an up-and-down season, and despite his leadership abilities and his veteran savvy, he is an easy candidate for the second compliance buyout.
Martin St. Louis had a rough regular season after being acquired at the trade deadline, but he was pretty good in the playoffs. Obviously, he could have contributed more, but it is hard to pick on one of the few guys who got the job done.
The Rangers would be a great offensive team if they had one or two game-breakers, because the majority of their roster consists of solid complementary players. Maybe Chris Kreider will turn into a game-breaker next season. He did have 37 points in 66 games, and he looked more comfortable offensively.
As a team during the regular season, the Blueshirts scored 2.61 goals per game, and that is good enough for 12th-worst in the entire NHL. As a whole, the Rangers need to do a better job scoring, because they find themselves in a lot of close games where an inability to score costs them.
After a very heartbreaking playoffs, there are a lot of questions to be answered, and the team needs to address its scoring problems this summer. The team got to the Stanley Cup Final, but losing three overtime games because of a lack of scoring was the bane of its existence.
Final Grade: C+
The Rangers have one of the league’s better defense corps, and it is a group that took some steps forward this season. Ryan McDonagh had an amazing breakout campaign in which he tallied 43 points, Marc Staal looked like he did before suffering an eye injury and Dan Girardi played well enough during the regular season to earn a contract extension.
Anton Stralman continued to show why he’s one of the league’s most underrated defenders, and his play will likely earn him a nice contract in free agency.
Kevin Klein was a nice fit for the third pairing during the regular season, but he wasn’t particularly sharp during the playoffs. He wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t great, either.
John Moore had his ups and downs this season, but as a whole, it is fair to look at his progress as a positive. Raphael Diaz impressed during his brief playing time, and he added life and mobility to the power play.
As a team, the Blueshirts only surrendered 2.32 goals per game, and that was good enough for fourth-best in the NHL.
In the playoffs, the Rangers blue line was pretty solid up until the Stanley Cup Final. It is unknown if he was playing hurt, but Girardi was pretty terrible. Turnovers cost the team big time, and there were times when the team simply couldn’t clear the zone.
The back end also failed to produce offensively, and this was one series in which still having Michael Del Zotto would have helped. The Rangers lacked that part of their game, and it is something the Kings exploited. Overall, the defense was pretty good this season, but there is room for improvement.
Final Grade: B+
After this playoff run, Henrik Lundqvist has officially established himself as a clutch playoff goaltender who can be counted on.
When the Rangers’ backs were against the wall, Lundqvist stepped up and was the main reason the team played for a Stanley Cup. In elimination games, King Henrik was 5-1, and prior to the loss, he had only allowed one goal per game on average.
He had another solid regular season, but he wasn’t good enough to earn a nomination as a Vezina Trophy finalist. This was partially due to a rough first half that saw Lundqvist go 13-16-3 with a 2.76 GAA and a .907 save percentage. He did, however, turn it on during the second half of the season, and he went 19-6-2 with a 2.02 GAA and a .934 save percentage.
On the season, he finished with a 33-24-5 record, 2.36 GAA and .920 save percentage, so it was an average year for the King. In the playoffs, Lundqvist once again stood on his head and put up decent numbers, but the Rangers’ inability to get that extra goal loomed large in a Cup Final that featured three overtime losses.
It was another year of Lundqvist’s prime being wasted, but if anything, this loss will ignite a fire in the team that will only be quenched with a Stanley Cup victory. The 2008 Pittsburgh Penguins come to mind, and it will be interesting to see how the Rangers come out next season.
Final Grade: A
This season, associate coach Scott Arniel was tasked with running the power play, and in addition to working with the defensemen, Ulf Samuelsson charted the penalty kill. The Blueshirts power play clicked early and often, but it sputtered throughout the second half. The season ended with the man-advantage unit ranked 15th in the league with a 18.2 success rate, and it was assumed that it would help the Rangers in the playoffs.
It goes without saying, in the playoffs the Blueshirts power play “sucked from head to toe.” I am not going to sit here and dissect it with you, but just know that the Rangers need to be better. That is similar to what former coach John Tortorella once said, but nothing else can adequately describe the Blueshirts’ power play in the playoffs.
The Blueshirts would overcome an 0-36 drought during the series against the Montreal Canadiens, but the power play was a non-factor during the Cup Final.
When it came to killing penalties, the Blueshirts were the third-best team in the league. The Rangers killed 85.3 percent of penalties this season, and it was one of the team’s strengths.
The Blueshirts also found ways to capitalize while short-handed, and they scored 10 goals while a man down. They tied with the Anaheim Ducks and Tampa Bay Lightning, but they scored more goals despite being short-handed 38 fewer times than both teams.
When you look at the team’s production as a whole, it had an average power play and a great penalty kill, so the overall grade for special teams will reflect that.
Final Grade: B-
Alain Vigneault made his debut with the New York Rangers this season after spending the last seven years with the Vancouver Canucks’ organization. Finishing as the Cup Finalist and No. 2 team in the league is a pretty great job all things considered.
Early on, his style of play didn’t mesh with the Rangers, and they got off to a 3-7-0 start during the first 10 games.
Over time, Vigneault’s message took roots with the club, and it emerged as one of the NHL’s top possession teams. It was a different approach, and it was one that made the Rangers a better offensive team.
In the Stanley Cup Final, Vigneault didn’t make many line changes. He kept trotting out Brad Richards for the power play even though he was struggling, and the Blueshirts’ top goal scorer, Rick Nash, was nailed to the bench.
He also kept Dan Carcillo out of the lineup after his suspension ended, even though Derek Dorsett was looking a little immobile late in the series. These are just a few minute areas that could have made a difference, but they don't overshadow everything accomplished this year.
Although the Blueshirts were ultimately unsuccessful in the playoffs, they should be a better team next year by the mere fact that they will be used to Vigneault’s system from the get-go. They gained valuable experience from being in the Stanley Cup Final, and that should help this team in the long run.
The Rangers need to make some personnel changes, but overall, Vigneault should be successful next season.
Scott Arniel and Ulf Samuelsson did a solid job this season assisting Vigneault. The power play improved early under Arniel, and next season he will have an opportunity to continue making the necessary changes for the man-advantage unit to be successful.
Samuelsson did an amazing job with the team’s defense, and it will be a real shame if he is recruited to fill the vacant coaching spot in Carolina. There is so much more he can do with the team’s defense, but in the event he does leave, at least the players got to spend a year under his tutelage.
All in all, this was an amazing first season for the Blueshirts coaching staff.
Final Grade: A-
This was an amazing season for the New York Rangers. They gave their fans more amazing moments in 2013-14 than they did in the 20 years since the 1993-94 run. These Rangers came together at times, they embraced a new system and they made it to a place that no one expected them to.
This team is going to be a contender next year, and with the right moves, it could win the Stanley Cup. Henrik Lundqvist is still an elite goalie. The core features youth such as Ryan McDonagh, Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and a plethora of other players under the age of 30.
Brad Richards will likely be gone, and that will free up cap space to improve the roster. Rick Nash may be traded after another unsuccessful playoffs, and that could bring in pieces to help the team.
No matter how you look at it, the Rangers have the means to retain a majority of this roster, and they should have some money to make the tweaks to get better going forward.
It has been said that you need to learn how to lose before you can win, and coming this far will motivate the 2014-15 Rangers.
Final Grade: A-
*All stats via NHL.com.