5 Things We’ve Learned So Far About The 2013-14 New York Rangers
New Regime, New Look For The New York Rangers
In a short period of time, the New York Rangers have shown fans and the NHL that their identity for the upcoming season may differ from that of the past few years under John Tortorella. The Rangers built a reputation as a team willing to pay the price by blocking shots and grinding their way towards wins in the regular season. Of course, by the time the playoffs came around, the Rangers looked exhausted from the beating they had taken throughout the course of the year, forcing them to fall short of the ultimate goal: winning the Stanley Cup.
New Head Coach Alain Vigneault has shown through two weeks of the team being together in preseason that there may not be as much bruising in the future anymore. The emphasis on skill and a creative offensive flow has become evident, especially in the first two preseason games. That's not to say the Rangers will no longer grind out wins. Vigneault still pushes his teams to get down in the dirty areas, clear the crease on defense, crash the net and get physical on the forecheck. The difference from last year seems to be that there has become more freedom in the offensive zone, allowing for more relaxed play and a creative edge to their rush.
In this article, we'll be taking a look at some of the big topics from the Rangers' preseason so far. As early as it may seem, it's never too early to look for trends heading into the regular season.
Martin Burns is a New York Rangers’ and sports writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter!
5. The Backup Goalie Position Is Up For Grabs
Martin Biron has been as solid as you could expect your backup goalie to be for the Rangers over the past three seasons, which is why it came as a bit of a surprise when GM Glen Sather brought veteran Johan Hedberg into training camp on a PTO. Of course, the Rangers have recently released Hedberg, but Biron now has competition in 26-year-old Cam Talbot.
Talbot has been the goalie for the Rangers' AHL affiliate Hartford Wolfpack for some time now. Vigneault has stated that the Rangers will look closely at their backup situation before officially naming the player who will be behind Henrik Lundqvist on the depth chart.
The only way I see Talbot winning this job is if Biron is dumped in a move to make more salary cap room to re-sign Derek Stepan, otherwise, it's Biron's job to lose.
4. Defensemen Are Getting Offensive
Vigneault has been preaching to the Rangers' defensemen to get more involved in the offensive rush, and it was evident in the games against the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils. You could see players like Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto and John Moore pinching up in the offensive zone trying to get shots on net.
Rangers fans have gotten used to watching a more conservative approach with their defensemen in past years, but expect to see bigger offensive numbers from those same players this upcoming season.
3. Crash The Net And Then Crash The Net Some More
The Rangers know that you can't score highlight reel goals each time you put the puck in the net. More often than not, you're going to score by outworking the opposition in front of the net. Last year, we saw too many players hiding along the boards and being nowhere in sight for rebounds. Not this year.
Vigneault has harped on crashing the net in each practice -- put the puck on net, get in front of the net and the puck will go in the net. The Rangers worked on doing nothing but crashing the net for rebounds in practice one day. Expect to see a lot of scrums this season.
2. There Is An Abundance Of Centers On The Roster
It may seem that center is a position of worry for the Rangers since the holdout with Stepan is still unresolved, but there is actually reason to be optimistic.
The Rangers seem to have a lot of talent at center, and a lot of players who can play that position. Along with Derick Brassard, who has looked phenomenal, and Brad Richards, the Rangers have young talent in Swedish prospect Oscar Lindberg and last year's call-up J.T. Miller. Both youngsters have a lot to offer this team and with Stepan out, one of them may get a chance at starting on the third line. Add veterans Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore to the mix, and you have a very formidable set of centers on the roster.
This is not to say the Rangers don't need Stepan. They do, but they can also survive without him should he miss several games at the start of the season, which is looking more and more likely.
1. If You Have Skill, Expect To Play
There are a lot of prospects in Rangers camp this year, and a lot of them have incredible skill. Guys like Lindberg, Danny Kristo, Jesper Fast and Marek Hrivik have all turned heads with their impressive display of offensive ability. Vigneault has raved about them and given them all time to show what they've got to offer in the first two preseason games.
Most impressive of all has been Chris Kreider. Kreider has seemingly had the reins taken off, and looks relaxed and confident in Vigneault's system. Kreider skated on a line with Richards and Rick Nash in the first preseason game against the Devils, and was able to create a lot of good-scoring opportunities. This could be a big year for the young forward.
Vigneault likes his skill players, so don't be surprised if a guy like Kristo makes the roster out of training camp.