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THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: New York Rangers

Will the New York Rangers suffer through a hangover one year after falling in the Cup final? We preview the season ahead for New York, who made some key changes in the summer. We have them pegged to finish third in the Metro Division: do you agree?
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

2013-14 record: 45-31-6

Acquisitions: Ryan Malone, Kevin Hayes, Lee Stempniak, Matt Lombardi, Nick Tarnasky, Cedrick Desjardins, Mike Kostka, Dan Boyle, Tanner Glass, Steve Kampfer, Matt Hunwick

Departures: Darroll Powe, Justin Falk, Brian Boyle, Brad Richards, Stu Bickel, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Stralman, Derek Dorsett

Top five fantasy players: Martin St-Louis, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: A Rangers team that gave the Kings a modicum of resistance before falling in five games in the Stanley Cup final suffered some losses – and made some gains – over the summer.

The departures of Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle will sting, but buying out Brad Richards was addition by subtraction. Meanwhile, adding puck-moving D-man Dan Boyle will take a middle-of-the-pack power play and make it one of the league’s best, thanks to his point presence and right-handed shot. And as maligned as Rick Nash was during the playoffs for his lack of production, he was a great two-way player all season, facing tough competition and driving possession. Young guns Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello are the here and now, with veterans Martin St-Louis and Henrik Lundqvist leading the way.

The team found its footing again under coach Alain Vigneault. With stars at every position, the Rangers can hang with anyone in the league and has the potential to challenge Pittsburgh and Boston for Eastern Conference supremacy.

Bust: A lot of size left when Benoit Pouliot and Brian Boyle walked via free agency. Tanner Glass replaces some of that heft, but he’s more of a plugger. Boyle in particular was a linchpin of the penalty kill, which was one of the NHL’s best units. He was also counted on to take defensive zone starts and push the puck out of trouble with his condor-like frame.
Although Dan Boyle enjoyed six solid seasons in San Jose, he’s 38 and hasn’t hit 50 points since 2010-11. He had just 36 last season and may be on the verge of a steep decline. St-Louis has spent his career defying expectations, but at age 39 with more than 1,100 total games on the odometer, it wouldn’t be surprising if he faded. And despite the subtleties of Nash’s power game, the catcalls in New York will be deafening if he can’t find the back of the net with consistency. If any of the three falter, the Blueshirts could find themselves on the playoff bubble.

Bottom Line: This team will be pretty good again in the regular season. Zuccarello is looking like the real deal while Chris Kreider also appears to be on the ascent. Plus, ‘The King’ is in net, so no worries there. Although Cup hangovers are a real thing for teams that lose the final series, in Dan Boyle the Rangers have a veteran who will bring a great presence to the power play and more mobility to the blueline. New York will slip a little but still be playoff-bound.

Prospect To Watch: The best chance for a rookie to crack the lineup with the Rangers is at forward and 2011 first-rounder J.T. Miller may be the best bet to stick with the team. But what about Oscar Lindberg? The 6-foot-1 Swede - who was picked in the second round of the 2010 draft - was a solid contributor to the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack last season, especially in the second half. In 74 AHL games, Lindberg scored 18 goals and 44 points, his first season in North America. Can he make this year's Rangers team and take the final step?

THN's Prediction: Third in Metro Division

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Contributors: Ryan Kennedy, Rory Boylen



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