In February of 2018, the New York Rangers released a letter to fans and detailed plans for the future. Over a year later, the Blueshirts are undergoing the publicized rebuild and things are more or less going according to plan.
Let’s be clear: the Rangers are officially out of playoff contention. Despite beating the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday, New York is 29-32-13 and seventh in the Metropolitan Division. That puts them nine points behind the Philadelphia Flyers as of press time with eight games to go in the regular season.
But the future is friendly on Broadway and this year saw more fresh faces come to the fore.
Alexandar Georgiev, for instance, arose as the possible goalie of New York’s future. The 23-year-old won 11 games in 25 starts, posting a 3.02 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. Without a doubt, Georgiev comes up big at times – especially against Toronto – and he’s probably going to be doing a lot more of that down the line.
Others, like Filip Chytil, Tony DeAngelo and Brett Howden, were incorporated as well.
And the Rangers moved on from some familiar names, with Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello traded at the deadline.
The only real veterans that remain, tags from the 2015 Presidents’ Trophy run, are Jesper Fast, Marc Staal, Henrik Lundqvist, and Chris Kreider.
Leading the scoring is Mika Zibanejad, who has 67 points in 74 games but is a minus-12. Kreider’s 49 points is second, while Jimmy Vesey seems ready to roll as formidable threat with 34 points in 73 games.
Brendan Lemieux, acquired from Winnipeg in the Hayes trade, has been rising through the ranks. He saw a career-high 15 and a half minutes against Toronto Saturday and seems set to work himself up from a fourth line guy to a potential top nine forward.
This is all part of the design of first-year coach David Quinn, who has the room to move and the space to play. Expectations weren’t high this season, so it’s meant the bench boss can take his time to get things just right. That’s meant a combination of new and old-ish, all with designs on meeting the plan set out in the renowned letter.
Without a doubt, Lundqvist is still very much the workhorse. He recently surpassed a critical career mark by logging 50,000 minutes of NHL hockey – all with New York. That made him just the 11th goalie to do so and just the third to do it with the same team. That’s a lot of puck and Lundqvist has risen to the challenge of spending 35 full days in the crease.
Did 2018-2018 go alright? Anytime a team misses the playoffs, it’s a disappointment. The Rangers have scored two or fewer goals in 10 of their last 11. That’s not good. But they’re doing a lot of the little things right and this roster is getting younger, faster and more aligned with Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton’s plan.
For that, you’ve got to admire the dedication.
(Photo credit: NHL)