2014-15 NHL preview: New York Rangers

2014-15 NHL preview: New York Rangers
September 4, 2014, 12:00 pm
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New York Rangers players surround left wing Chris Kreider (20) after he scores the game-winning goal against the Boston Bruins during overtime in game four of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Rangers win 4-3 in overtime.

(Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports)

As part of our summer series previewing the 2014-15 NHL season, CSNwashington.com is analyzing all 30 NHL teams, division by division. Today we continue with the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division.

Today: NEW YORK RANGERS

2013-14 record: 45-31-6 (96 points)

Where they finished: 2nd in the Metropolitan; 5th in the East; 12th in the NHL

Coach: Alain Vigneault  (2nd season)

Key additions: D  Dan Boyle, RW Lee Stempniak, C Matthew Lombardi, LW Tanner Glass, D Michael Kostka, D Matt Hunwick

Key subtractions: C Brad Richards, RW Derek Dorsett, LW Benoit Pouliot, C Brian Boyle, D Anton Stralman, D Justin Falk

Projected Lineup

Forwards

Rick Nash – Derek Stepan – Chris Kreider

Carl Hagelin – Derick Brassard – Martin St. Louis

Mats Zuccarello – J.T. Miller – Lee Stempniak

Matthew Lombardi – Dominic Moore – Tanner Glass

Extras: Jesper Fast, Chris Mueller

Defense

Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi

Marc Staal – Dan Boyle

John Moore – Kevin Klein

Extra: Michael Kostka

Goaltenders

Henrik Lundqvist – Cam Talbot

Our take: Under first-year coach Alain Vigneault the Rangers exceeded expectations last season when they eliminated the Flyers, Penguins and Canadiens en route to the Stanley Cup Final, where they were beaten by the L.A. Kings in five games, three of which went to overtime.

Keeping that team together proved to be a difficult task for general manager Glen Sather, who is entering his 15th season as president and GM. Pressed for cap space, the Rangers lost four key forwards and one key defenseman to free agency in Brad Richards [Chicago], Benoit Pouliot [Edmonton], Derek Dorsett [Vancouver], Brian Boyle [Tampa Bay] and Anton Stralman [Tampa].

The Rangers were able to replace Stralman with Dan Boyle, who at 38 is coming off a 12-goal season and should help a power play that finished 15th in the NHL last season [18.2 percent].

Replacing Richards’ 20 goals and 51 points as a top-line center will fall on the shoulders of Stepan, who have averaged 49 points in his first four NHL seasons, all as a second-line center.

Derick Brassard [18 goals, 45 assists] should be a solid No. 2 center, but the Rangers’ production down the middle drops after that with J.T. Miller [3 goals, 6 points] and Dominic Moore [6 goals, 18 points].

The addition of Mathew Lombardi, who recorded 50 points in 46 games in the Austrian League last season, should help the Rangers’ offense, which finished 18th in the NHL last season at 2.61 per game.

The Rangers should be fine on the back end with a top four of Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Boyle and Marc Staal, but they’ll need to re-sign restricted free agent John Moore to avoid any depth issues on the blue line.

Between the pipes, Henrik Lundqvist is entering his 10th season in New York. He’s recorded 30 or more wins in eight of his nine NHL seasons and received solid backup support last season from Cam Talbot, who will be trying to build off an exceptional season last year [12-6-1, .1.64 GAA, 941 SP].

Will they make the playoffs in 2014-15? They are not as deep down the middle as they were last season but the Rangers should finish in the top half of the conference and could give the Penguins a run in the Metropolitan.