New York Rangers: 5 Players Who Have Stepped Up After Slow Start To 2013-14 Season

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5 Players Who Have Stepped Up After Slow Start To 2013-14 Season For New York Rangers

5 Players Who Have Stepped Up After Slow Start To 2013-14 Season For New York Rangers
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY

After a dreadful 3-6 road trip to start the 2013-14 season for the New York Rangers, they are now back at .500 with an 8-8 record and looking significantly better than they did just one month ago.

Now, some would think a 3-6 record to start the year off on the road is not all that horrible of a road trip. However, when looking at the Rangers this season, you have to take into consideration that in three of these games, they were heavily out-chanced and blown out, being outscored by a total of 21-5 in those three games. That is what I call a dreadful road trip to start the season.

During this nine game road trip, and in the entire month of October, a lot of the Rangers' star players, or players the Rangers' organization and their fans look upon to perform well and earn the money in their contracts, were anything but stars.

But, now in November, the Rangers' offense and defense seems to be adjusting to new head coach Alain Vigneault's system and are starting to win some games. There is still improving to be done, of course, but at least now the players that needed to step up in order for the Rangers to succeed this year, who weren't earlier in the season, are now performing and continuing to show signs of improvement. Five in particular I feel deserve some recognition, which is why I introduce to you this slideshow that I have created. Here are the top five Rangers who have stepped up since the beginning of this 2013-14 season.

Steven Carollo is a New York Rangers’ and sports writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, add him on Facebook, connect with him on LinkedIn and join his Google network.

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5. Brian Boyle

Brian Boyle
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

This was a big shocker for me. I don't know about you, but when Brian Boyle is concerned, I really only expect faceoff wins and that is about it.

I am well passed his fluke 21 goal season in the 2010-11 season, and now I am not used to much out of Boyle. It has always frustrated me how he has a big body yet plays so small, but I have to give him some credit on what he has done the past week or so. He has stepped up his game, is actually using his big body on occasion, and while he only has one goal on the year thus far, he is doing the little things to help set up his teammates for goals. I have to give credit where credit is due.

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4. Mats Zuccarello

Mats Zuccarello
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Mats Zuccarello has had a weird 2013-14 season so far.

The first few games of the season, Zuccarello was arguably the Rangers' best forward on the ice, even though that is not really saying much, but then he really tailed off and was pretty invisible in a few games in a row, and because of it, was a healthy scratch for a game. His scratching was exactly what Zuccarello needed, however, as ever since, he has been considerably noticeable on the ice on every single shift and for his hard work, has one goal and seven assists. Obviously he would love his goal totals to be higher, but the way he has been playing lately, more goals for Zuccarello should follow sooner rather than later.

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3. Ryan McDonagh

Ryan McDonagh
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers' defense as a whole really struggled out of the gate adjusting to Vigneault's system, and surprisingly, Ryan McDonagh, who is usually always defensively sound, struggled just as bad as the rest of the team.

However, I believe McDonagh is now adjusting well to Vigneault's system and is starting to make his mark on the 2013-14 season. He is starting to score goals, even on the powerplay, and already has four to go along with his five assists, while his defense is getting back to how it has been for his entire career. There is no surprise that as McDonagh's game is getting better each day, the Rangers are playing better and better defensively. Overall, improvements still have to be made to the Rangers' defense and offense, but with McDonagh stepping up and starting to return to form, the Rangers should keep on adjusting well as time goes on.

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2. Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Henrik Lundqvist started off the 2013-14 season really slow, and I mean really slow.

Over the years, Lundqvist has had some struggles to start a new season but never, like this. Now, granted the Rangers' skaters were not giving him much help, or really any help at all, but you can just tell Lundqvist was not on his game either, and was surrendering goals that usually he stops. Overall, he was just getting shelled out there on a daily basis. His save percentage was never below .912 in his career, and during the Rangers' nine game road trip, his save percentage actually dipped into the .800s.

Since the Rangers have come home and played some home games, however, Lundqvist is more focused and getting back to his old self. He is getting better and better each game and has really stepped up of late, and out of all the players on this team, it is most important for Lundqvist to be on his game.

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1. Derek Stepan

Derek Stepan
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

After holding out in the offseason for a new contract, Derek Stepan struggled immensely out of the gate and looked pretty invisible in a lot of games in October.

It was such a bad first month for Stepan that he went the entire month without a single goal, something that is unacceptable for your first line center. November, however, has been a totally different story, as Stepan seems to be adjusting well now to Vigneault's system and has four goals this month, which is, at the moment, only nine days old. Add eight assists to Stepan's score sheet, plus the fact that he is now very noticeable on a line with Zuccarello and Chris Kreider, and it can definitely be said that Stepan is finally stepping up his game. For a Rangers team that struggles to score goals consistently, it is so important for Stepan to be on his game, and I think it is no coincidence that the Rangers have been scoring more goals lately, all while Stepan continues to get better.

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