There is one big question regarding the New York Rangers offense: Is it the best in the league?
This upcoming year will pose a plethora of uncertainties for the New York Rangers. The defense, who disappointed time after time last year, lost their best offensive defenseman in Keith Yandle. Henrik Lundqvist carried the Rangers in the regular season (despite the bloated GAA), but the King underwhelmed in the playoffs.
It’s obvious that there is a ton of concern regarding how the Blueshirts will fare in their own end of the ice this season. At the other end of the rink, there are also question marks on how the Rangers will perform.
These are good question marks, however.
Ever since Alain Vigneault hopped behind the bench in New York, scoring goals has become easier and easier for the Rangers.
In Vigneault’s debut season, the Blueshirt’s group of forwards ranked a mediocre 18th in putting the puck in the back of the net, tallying a mere 2.61 goals per game.
The past two years have been a different story. The Rangers have racked up 2.93 goals per game over that span, trailing only the Dallas Stars, Washington Capitals, and Tampa Bay Lightning in that category.
I guess the big question regarding these forwards is whether they can be the best group in the NHL.
Well, can they? Let’s look under the microscope.
The top two lines are arguably the most balanced group in the NHL. Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello all possess the ability to fire 25 goals to go along with 60 points. Nash has the most to prove of the three after his injury-riddled campaign, but his track record suggests that he is more than capable of posting monster numbers. He is just one year removed from a 42 goal, 69 point season and showed signs of becoming the player he once was in the latter half of last year.
Stepan will look to build off of his brilliant second half last year, which saw him record 24 points in his last 21 games. Zuccarello led the team in points last year and the Norwegian is set to have another big year on Broadway.
The second trio of Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and J.T. Miller is a young group with loads of potential. They all had 20 goals last year and it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which they don’t each score 25. Zibanejad is a question mark because of his inconsistencies in Ottawa, but he is primed to become a star in the NHL and fans can realistically expect the Swede to put up at least 60 points this year. Kreider is on a mission to have a breakout year with the Blueshirts, while Miller is expected to build on his first full NHL season. The bar is set high for the duo, and they both appear ready to explode.
Forwards seven, eight, and nine are where questions definitely arise. While Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast can be penciled in on the third line, the final slot is still up in the air. Free agent forward Jimmy Vesey is a hot commodity that Jeff Gorton appears to be extremely interested in bringing to New York. If Vesey does end up on Broadway, he would likely find himself alongside Hayes and Fast, pushing rookie Pavel Buchnevich to the cellar (in terms of lines).
How dangerous could that group be? Hayes and Vesey are both expected to post around 40 points while the defensive minded Fast could see himself record 20-25 points. Buchnevich, who would likely get promoted at some point during the year, could realistically register 30 points this season.
Now that is some lineup.
All in all, the Rangers could end up having eight twenty-goal scorers (including Vesey) if things go to plan, which is unheard of in the NHL. Although they may not have the big names like they do in the nation’s capital or the windy city, the Rangers may have the most balanced and efficient offense if Alain Vigneault plays his cards right.
Watch out for this high powered offense come October.