When an NHL team features the likes of Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan, one would think that they would be able to put the puck in the net with relative ease and on a consistent basis.
For much of this season, however, scoring goals has been a difficult task for the New York Rangers. Despite a roster that had two 40-goal scorers and three players that had the abilities to produce in upwards of 75 points each, the Blueshirts have struggled to generate quality scoring chances and cash in when they did.
It appears that after scoring 18 goals in their last three games, the Rangers’ offence, without Gaborik due to his trade to the Columbus Blue Jackets, is coming together at the right time. With three straight wins and six points under their belt, the Rangers’ offence is keeping things simple, getting lucky bounces and finding ways to score with the man advantage, three things that were lacking in the team’s first few months of the season.
In a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden, it was easy to see why the Rangers’ offence is clicking. The team is getting terrific play out of its big-name players, two of its youngsters are scoring like veterans and the club’s newcomers have fit right in and have helped make this Rangers’ team a lot deeper up front.
For starters, the Rangers’ superstars are coming up big. After struggling for much of the season and playing without a lot of confidence, Richards is starting to find his way.
Against the New Jersey Devils this afternoon, Richards picked-up two assists and continued his fine stretch of play in his club’s last three games. In those games, the Blueshirts’ nine-year man has seven points on four goals and three assists.
In his team’s 8-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo on Friday night, Richards picked-up his first career hat trick.
Nash has also stepped up. While he did not find the scoresheet this afternoon, Nash’s play over his last few games has been steady. Nash, tied for the team-lead in scoring with 40 points (19 goals and 21 assists), picked-up five points this week on two goals and three assists while also firing eight shots on goal.
Nash has been one of the team’s driving forces on offence this season. He has great hands, he goes hard to the net, and is not afraid to shoot the puck; and as a result, the former Blue Jackets captain has been one of NYR’s few consistent producers.
With that said, two of the Rangers’ best offensive players this season have been homegrown products. Derek Stepan is tied for the team lead in points with 40 on 16 goals and 24 assists.
Night in and night out, Stepan, just 22 years of age, is all over the puck. He hustles, he back checks, he forechecks, has great vision and this season, is showing how good he can be offensively.
Stepan is also playing some of his best hockey at the most important time of the season. In his team’s victory over the Devils this afternoon, he added another goal and an assist and now has six points (two goals and four assists) in his last six games.
Overall, Stepan has 31 points (13 goals and 18 assists) in his last 27 games, showing that he can be more than a point-per-game player if put with the right players and in the right situations.
After Stepan, Callahan, the team’s captain, has also had a productive season and has also come through with terrific play over the last week or so. This past week, he had three goals and three assists for six points and on the season, now has 14 goals and 12 assists for 26 points.
Callahan plays on the team’s top power play unit, playing on a line with Stepan and Carl Hagelin while also spending time with Nash, and is out on the ice on the team’s top penalty killing unit where he is often able to create shorthanded scoring chances. He knows how to create havoc in front of the opposing team’s goaltender, knows how to deflect shots and is usually in the right place at the right time to bang in a rebound.
The team’s newcomers on offence, Derick Brassard and Ryane Clowe, have also fit in nicely on this Rangers’ roster. In nine games as a Blueshirt, Brassard has nine points (three goals and six assists) while Ryane Clowe has seven (three goals and four assists).
The team’s power play has also been much better. After being one of the worst teams in the category for much of the season, the Rangers are now 13th in the league and are making their power play work by keeping things simple, getting pucks to the net and keeping guys moving around instead of staying in one position.
With just four games remaining in the regular season against non-playoff teams, look for the Rangers’ offence to continue building momentum as they look to clinch a spot in the postseason for the third straight season.