With the 20-day Olympic break upon us, and very little in terms of NHL news as a result, it's the perfect time to take a look at how the Rangers have faired individually roughly three-quarters of the way through the season. This will be part one of we'll see how many, going line by line, starting with the first.
The Big Smooth did not have the smoothest of starts to the season. He was concussed in game three, missed 17 contests, and took a while to find his stride upon returning. Nash scored just three goals in December, but followed that up with a stretch of 11 games in January where he carried the Blueshirts offensively, potting a goal per game in those 11, a stretch that also included three muti-goal efforts. Since the end of that streak, the rollercoaster ride that has been Nash's season continued–the winger was pointless in the five games leading up to Sochi. Excluding the afformentioned hot streak that saw him score 11 of his 18 goals, Nash has just 7 lamp-lighters in 31 games, and somehow, hasn't had an assist in 18 games. The latter part of that statement is a bigger indictment on his linemates than the big man himself–it's not as if he doesn't pass–but still, the Rangers will need more consistency out of their lone offensive star in the last quarter of the season. B-
Any way you look at it, Derek Stepan has had a disappointing season. After a breakout year in the truncated 2012-13 campaign, Stepan was viewed as the Rangers' top line center entering the season, but so far, he's been a first-liner in name only. The US Olympian has regressed this year, posting just 10 goals and 35 points, despite being second amongst Rangers' forwards in ice time with 18:31 per game, and logging significant time on the Blueshirts vastly improved power play (2:45 per game, again second amongst forwards). The center has been a bit snakebitten–his 6.9 shooting percentage is outrageously low–but unlike when his linemate Nash was struggling earlier in the the year, Stepan doesn't seem to be getting many quality looks each game, meaning he needs to work to make sure those shots are coming from better areas on the ice. In fact, invisible might be the best way to describe what the 23-year old has been for much of the season. His defensive play remains solid, but the Rangers need him to do much more than just defend. C
Number 20 has looked nothing like the Chris Kreider of old. The raw offensive numbers, 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points, are solid, but they only tell a small portion of the tale that is Kreider's breakout season. Under John Tortorella, the 22-year old Kreider could often be accused of being a spectator–even when he was actually on the ice and not nailed to the bench. The big winger looked tentative and afraid to make a mistake. Not the case anymore. Kreider's game has taken on a cocksure demeanor that, if present before, was very rarely visible. The former first-rounder is playing an in-your-face, physical style that has frequently drawn the ire of opponents, and is no longer afraid to unleash his torrential speed. In short, he just doesn't look like the same player, and that's a good thing. A very good thing. Kreider still has room to grow, and as he continues to develop, he'll find ways to light the lamp more consistently, but he's shown the sky is the limit. A-
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