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Rangers Depth Masking Offensive Issues At The Top

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The Rangers bottom-six has taken care of the top guns not scoring.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Close your eyes and go back to training camp. Before we knew the lineup, before we knew Oscar Lindberg was a god among men, before we knew Henrik Lundqvist activated beast mode before the year began.

If I had pulled you aside then and asked you who the Rangers top scorers would be 12 games into the season you'd probably have given me a combination of Rick Nash, Derick Brassard or Mats Zuccarello. (You wouldn't have been that far off, either). If I then asked you who would have done a bulk of the scoring you probable would have said Nash and Kreider. (There you would be wrong, so, so very wrong).

This is why depth is so important.

Over the course of last year when I was kicking and screaming about the Rangers horrible bottom-six selections this was the fear. When your top guys aren't getting the job done (for whatever that reason may be) you need someone to pick them up. It's impossible for every team's top players to be humming from the start of the season to the end of it. The inevitable lag will come, and when it does teams need to be properly equipped.

This is not a story about how Nash and Kreider are letting the team down and not doing their jobs. Actually, I think the last thing you need to do is worry about them not scoring yet. They're getting their chances, it's going to happen.

This is rather a story about the players who have picked them up. Zuccarello has seven goals in 12 games, good for 48-goal pace. He's not going to hit that number, but it is worth noting that Zuccarello has always had a good shot he's put on the back burner for his better passing. With Nash's luck sitting somewhere in a well, Zuccarello has seemed to make it a point to shoot more. Its paid off. Tied with him for the team lead in points (with 10) is Brassard; who has a four-game point streak and has scored four goals himself.

The real revelation, though, has been Lindberg, who is second on the team in both goals scored (six) and points (nine). Here's the even better rub with Lindberg, though, he's scoring at even strength. All six goals and three assists he's amassed this year has come at even strength.

That's not production the Rangers were really getting out of their rookies last year. Kevin Hayes came on strong towards the middle of the year and never really took his foot of the pedal but it took J.T. Miller an entire year to gain Alain Vigneault's trust enough to be given those crunch time minutes. Even now, Lindberg is still playing about 11 minutes a night and has only started seeing power play time. Trust is a tough earn from Vigneault ... for some.

Speaking of, both Hayes and Miller have continued to grow off last year's work. Hayes has eight points in 12 games and is putting that rocky start further and further and further behind him. Miller has had his issues as well, but has looked really good the past few games and has six points himself. Jesper Fast has three points in 10 games and Jarret Stoll and Dominic Moore have added a little offense themselves. Even Emerson Etem has an assist in three games, while Victor Stalberg has four points so far in his Rangers campaign. That depth is helping get the job done.

There's two aspects to this: Lindberg isn't going to sustain his 28% shooting percentage the same way Nash isn't going to sustain his 3% shooting percentage. Kreider isn't going to sustain his 3.3% shooting percentage, either. But then again, Zuccarello's 26.7% is probably (read: definitely) too high to sustain himself. These things will eventually even out.

The good teams have players who fill the holes during those ebbs and flows. The Rangers -- for all their flaws to get to an 8-2-2 record -- have found a way to do that.