Going into this 2013-14 NHL regular season, one of the major questions for the New York Rangers was how Brad Richards was going to perform after a horrific lockout-shortened 2013 season, as it appeared retirement was definitely on the horizon. However, Richards came flying right out of the gate this season and at one point was scoring pretty much all of the Rangers’ goals.
Now while Richards has cooled off since the beginning of the season, it is evident that he is skating faster, shooting more and being more decisive with his passes.
Since Richards is doing well, you would assume so are the Rangers, but this is not the case. The Rangers are currently floating around the .500 mark and have been for the greater part of this season, and this is due to many reasons, but especially the play of goal scoring winger Rick Nash, center Derek Stepan and even goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Three names that most would have thought were shoo-ins for big seasons this year, due to past history and a new start with a new head coach, but for these three especially, it has been a struggle to say the least.
For Nash, concussions have been his major problem this year as he has played in only 23 of the Rangers’ 40 games going into today due to concussions. In the games Nash has played, though, he’s been extremely inconsistent just like the Rangers as a whole. Some games he looks great, scores a goal, and it looks as of he is gonna go on a tear, but then he goes a good number of games without a goal or even a point. Now I get it that concussions are a serious injury, but when it all comes down to it, the Rangers need to have their No. 1 goal scorer put the puck in the net — seven goals and eight assists through 23 games just isn’t going to cut it.
Stepan has had no injuries or a reasonable excuse for his lackluster season thus far. As a matter of fact, the fans are really getting on him especially since he held out of training camp due to contract disputes and after Rangers GM Glen Sather gave him more money, he repays the Rangers and their fans by having the worst year of his young career this far.
Stepan has played in all 40 games and only has seven goals and 17 assists. This is the same guy who led the Rangers in points last season and looked as if he was certainly going to be the future No. 1 center for the Rangers. This year, though, he is playing like a third line center at best, but made a big stink about wanting to get paid more in the offseason. This does not look good for Stepan and the team, which is why he must find a way to get his game going before it’s too late.
The biggest surprise in all of this is that Lundqvist, the sole purpose why the Rangers even make it to the playoffs last year, is currently having the worst season of his career. Lundqvist is a former Vezina Trophy winner and is considered to be one of the best goaltenders in the league. This season, however, he has been nothing short of average. He is currently 11-15 on the season with a save percentage just barely over .900 at .906 and a goals against average of 2.78. Whether it is his lingering groin injury or the smaller goalie pads, Lundqvist must find a way to get back to his old self or the Rangers are going absolutely nowhere.
All in all, it is not rocket science to figure out that Nash, Stepan and Lundqvist under-performing are at the root of a lot of the causes as to why the Rangers are disappointing this season thus far. However, since those are three big names and huge parts of this Rangers’ team, it is actually a miracle that they are even floating around .500 if you think about it. I honestly do not think there is any arguing that Lundqvist, Stepan and Nash must get their games going in order for the Rangers to find some form of consistency and rise above the .500 mark.