New York Rangers Midterm Grades
It's midterm time for the New York Rangers. Who studied?
The New York Rangers' huge 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals didn't just signify a huge win for the team, it also signified the halfway point in the Rangers shortened season.
Yeah, it came about fast, I know.
So let's look at how all the Rangers have done halfway through the season. Here's how I'm grading the players: A "B" is average, the player is pretty much doing what's expected of him. Obviously an A+ is far beyond expectations and an F is a complete atrocity. INC marks incomplete.
Rick Nash (A+) - It's impossible not to give Nash the highest possible grade. He came to this team with mammoth expectations and not only has he lived up to them, he's surpassed them. He's great in all three zones, is the Rangers top scorer and does everything you need your top player to do.
Ryan Callahan (A) - The Captain has been back to his old tricks, which is obviously a really good thing for the Rangers. He's been solid in both ends of the ice, leads the Rangers in power play goals (five) and continues to be a prime example of the type of player everyone wants on their team.
Henrik Lundqvist (A) - Hard not to give Lundqvist an A+, but he did start the season off slow (slow in Henrik Lundqvist language). Recently? Lundqvist has been back to being brilliant and it shows. The Rangers have their moments when they're horrible in front of him (and sometimes that reflects in his numbers) but Lundqvist and Nash are the two biggest reasons the Rangers are having any success at all.
Dan Girardi (A) - The Girardi-McDonagh pairing has been dominant all year. Girardi leads the team in blocks with 64. The next closest player is Callahan at 48. Girardi also leads the team in time on ice (24:40 a game) and pretty much does everything asked of him.
Marc Staal (A) - Pre-injury Staal was back to the Staal before the concussion. He's second on the team in time on ice (24:27) and is one of the rocks on the Rangers blue line. He's also helped make Del Zotto a better player by allowing him to be more aggressive in the offensive zone. Staal is also putting up numbers. He's tops for the Rangers defenseman with 11 points.
Carl Hagelin (A) - Hagelin was expected to be a third line defensive player when the season started. But he's been so much more. Hagelin's game compliments Nash's perfectly, he uses his speed to create chances and to harass opponents and he's been putting up points as well. Hagelin is tied for fourth on the team with 15 points in 24 games.
Ryan McDonagh (A-) - McDonagh fought it for the early part of this season (thus his grade) but he's getting back on track. Always solid in his own end, McDonagh has added the offensive game he has to his arsenal as well (10 points in the past 14 games).
Derek Stepan (A-) - Despite a dreadful first five games Stepan has been one of the Rangers best players of late. He's creating chances, doing good things defensively and scoring goals. Stepan is the Rangers third highest scoring player with 16 points in 24 games. He's tied for the team lead in points on the power play and has been logging huge minutes for the Rangers. His grade would be higher if not for the slow start.
J.T. Miller (B+) - I had a hard time not giving Miller a better grade because he's just 19, but I think a B+ is fair. Remember, this grade is based off the players expectations coming in, and since Miller's expectations were pretty low I think it's alright to characterize him as doing more than expected. Has he blown his expectations out of the water? In some respects yes and in other no. End result? Miller is a perfect example of why you take risks on well-rounded prospects who are more polished but don't have the numbers other guys do. Miller is NHL-ready at 19. Not many players can say that.
Michael Del Zotto (B/B+) - Del Zotto started the year a little slow, but the past 10 games or so he's been the complete defenseman the Rangers envisioned when they drafted him. He's been making things happen in the offensive zone. He has 10 points in 22 games -- a similar pace to the 41 points he put up last year -- and has been good in his own zone. It's nice to see, and important.
Martin Biron (B/B+) - Biron is pretty much doing what he's here for. He's had a rough game or two, but that's expected when you're a backup goaltender. Overall, Biron is the best backup in the NHL and he's a true asset to the Rangers.
Anton Stralman (B/B+) - Stralman is pretty much doing what's expected from him. I would love to see him shoot the puck with more consistency, although he has been joining the rush a little more. Honestly, Stralman is quietly becoming a really good top-four defenseman for the Rangers. And he's only 26 years old.
Darroll Powe (B/B+) - When the Rangers traded Mike Rupp for Powe the expectation was that Powe would be mainly used as a fourth liner and penalty kill specialist. He's been the penalty kill specialist that the Rangers needed, but he's also been a solid third line player at times as well. Powe is really becoming one of those important role players the Rangers needed so badly earlier in the year, and his play is really helping the Rangers win games.
Marian Gaborik (B) - So, Gaborik has been good this year in my opinion. He hasn't been great but he's been solid, and much better than people are giving him credit for. He's second on the team with 17 points, but he only has eight goals. Personally, Gaborik gets a "B" because he's pretty much doing what's expected. Sure, he could be scoring more, but he is creating chances and he is a little snakebitten. The Rangers are still a much better team with him than without him and I do think he's going to find his game sooner rather than later, but for right now he's in the "doing the expected but not more" category.
Taylor Pyatt (C+/B-) - I think Pyatt has been a good signing, and I think he's done all the little things the Rangers expected when they brought him in, but his offense has dropped off significantly since the beginning of the year. Not that anyone was expecting him to score 50 goals, but six points in 24 games isn't exactly a good thing either.
Jeff Halpern (C+/B-) - Halpern has been good defensively and good on the penalty kill (which is why he was brought in) and he's been great on the dot. I did expect a little more offense from Halpern (he only has one point in 24 games) but overall he's been fine.
Brad Richards (C) - Richards has been much better of late, but his first 15 games or so were rough. Really, rough. He's still tied for fourth on the team in points, but he's been bad at the point of the power play and his overall game has suffered. My assumption? The lockout and lack of competitive hockey from october through January hurt him bad. And Richards is a guy who cares. A lot. And that mental aspect hurts too because he's pushing harder. He looks like he's rounding back into form, and hopefully things keep getting better, but this is a grade indicative of the entire first half.
Stu Bickel (C-) - I don't want to hear anyone demanding Bickel get an "F," it makes no sense. Bickel came in with expectations to be a sixth defenseman. He hasn't exactly been that (hence the grade) but he has brought a level of toughness and he fills in the enforcer role well. For the expectations, Bickel hasn't exactly disappointed.
Brian Boyle (D+) - Obviously Boyle hasn't been the same player he was last year. I still think Boyle has been fine defensively but the other aspects of his game are lacking. He looked really good against Washington and if he kept playing like that he'll find himself in the lineup night in and night out but overall this hasn't been a good start for Boyle.
Steve Eminger (INC) - Tough to get a good read on Eminger. He's played a few games where he's seen over 20 minutes of ice time, then there have been games where he's only played like three minutes. Overall, I think Eminger has been good, we just haven't seen enough of him.
Arron Asham (INC) - Another situation where we haven't really seen enough of him to make a judgement. Asham would probably get a B if he played in all 24 games, because he has been good, but right now we simply haven't seen enough.
Matt Gilroy (INC) - Same thing as Eminger. Good games and bad games. Overall? Gilroy has been solid for the Rangers for his expectations, but again, we've only seen him for 13 games.
Chris Kreider (INC) - When Kreider did play there were very few games where John Tortorella gave Kreider room to actually see significant minutes. He's been great with the Whale of late, but his NHL time has to be marked as incomplete.
The Penalty Kill (B) - The penalty kill has been OK. It hasn't been outstanding, but it really hasn't cost the Rangers any games. It cold be better and it could be worse.
The Power Play (F) - Sure, things have been better recently, but overall the power play has been a disaster overall. Things should get better, and they are getting better, but the first 17ish games have been a disaster.