For quite some time now, the New York Rangers‘ top offensive line has been held and contained by the opposition way too easily. The Rangers’ first line of Derek Stepan centering Rick Nash and Chris Kreider has been ice cold. While Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault does not like to change up the line combinations all that often, he should seriously think about making an exception this time around.
I find it hard to believe that you can find a colder top line than on the Rangers. Both Nash and Kreider have severely cooled off from earlier this season, and Stepan has still yet to show up. Ultimately Stepan’s play, or lack thereof, has held the Rangers’ top line back all season, but now all three are not producing up to standards.
Kreider is still very young, only 22 years of age, and is currently playing in his first full season in the NHL, so he still needs to find his footing. So far this season, Kreider has 14 goals and 18 assists which is not bad but just not consistent enough to be on a team’s top scoring line. There are some stretches of games where he uses his speed to create plays and scoring chances, resulting in a couple of goals, and then he follows that up with a string of games where he is mostly invisible. As time progresses, hopefully Kreider keeps learning and improving his game in order to become a mainstay on the Rangers’ top line.
Nash has been hurt most of this season with concussion like symptoms, but overall he is a first line player. His numbers this season, 19 goals and 10 assists, might not reflect that, but looking at his body of work would most definitely change your mind. Nash is the only player I would currently keep on the Rangers’ first line due to his proven ability to score goals in bunches at any given instant.
As for Stepan and Kreider, I think it would be wise for Vigneault to demote them down to other lines in order to give them some sort of spark. Kreider is still very inexperienced, so struggles are expected with him. But for Stepan, who made such a big deal about a long-term contract in the offseason and never got one, he is certainly not looking like a long term player for the Rangers. With all of that being said, however, both Kreider and Stepan are very important for the Rangers. It is critical for both to start heating up as soon as possible as we draw near to this season’s end.