The arrival of Rick Nash to the New York Rangers has made every Ranger fan excited this summer about the offensive talent he could be paired with once the 2012 – 2013 season begins.
Offense – Line 1
Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Rick NashHagelin and Richards were linemates after the All-Star break last season as Rangers head coach John Tortorella continually tweaked his lines for offensive production. They played very well together with Hagelin’s speed and Richards puck control and precision passing. But now with Marian Gaborik out, who will fill that void on the first line? None other than newly acquired sniper Rick Nash.
Nash throughout his career has not played with such a superior talent at center like Richards and like mentioned before, Richards’ passing abilities should be able to set Nash up for many goals throughout the season, which is why they are projected to play together.
Potentially, we could be seeing (or come to close) to career-best seasons for Nash and Richards this year if the chemistry is right.
The absence of Gaborik from the lineup until December will absolutely have an impact on the Rangers’ top-six short-term, but the addition of Nash will ease the pain nonetheless.
Offense – Line 2 – “Team USA”
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Ryan CallahanAs deadly as the first line will become, the Rangers’ second line could be just as potent. This all-American line will give Rangers fans the chance to recognize success in the American hockey system while rooting for their favorite team at the same time.
We know Kreider and Stepan have the chemistry to play together since they did so when they won the Gold Medal for Team USA in the World Juniors in 2010.
In this line you have a mix of speed, passing, scoring, and toughness. Kreider can provide the scoring on this line with his chemistry with Stepan, and Callahan will be the player who is always willing to get dirty and get in front of the net to screen the goalie. This line can hit you from all angles whether its to score or to knock a player around once in a while. Look for this line to be the second line for most of the 2012-2013 season.
Offense – Line 3
Taylor Pyatt-Brian Boyle-Thomas/Miller?
This line is still in question. We most likely will not see one of Asham or Rupp skating on this 3rd line, which gives the opportunity to one of the Rangers young prospects like JT Miller or Christian Thomas to make the roster out of camp.
We pretty much can pencil in Boyle and Pyatt for this line since Boyle is 99% going to be the 3rd line center for the Rangers. If Miller or Thomas can make the rosters out of camp this is more than likely where they will be playing.
This line will most likely be used with this combination until Gaborik comes back off of injury, when Hagelin or even Chris Kreider (if he begins to struggle offensively) will almost certainly be knocked down a line. Either way this is a very good offensive-defensive line, that can put in timely goals and lay out some very big hits once in a while.
Mix in the speed and scoring abilities of Thomas or Miller and you have yourself a very good third line.
Offense – Line 4
Rupp-Halpern-AshamThe strength and skill of the New Jersey Devils third and fourth lines in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals were the difference against the Rangers. By adding Asham and Halpern, not only did it make the Rangers tougher to play against, it made them tougher to win face-offs against.
The Rangers struggled in key situations of their three playoff series with winning face-offs: whether it was against Konopka of the Senators, Halpern of the Capitals or Henrique of the Devils.
Adding Halpern who is a top face-off winner in the league was a huge upgrade for the Rangers and will be the difference-maker for the Rangers in offensive depth. The physical size of this fourth line will also be intimidating, as Rupp is 6’5″, Halpern 6’0″, and Asham 5’11″ but are all heavyweights when it comes to playing style and intimidation.
Asham and Rupp played together on the same line in Pittsburgh so they should already have some good chemistry and familiarity with each other’s styles of play.
Defense – Line 1
Can we say that this line has emerged as one of the top pairing shut-down defensemen in the league? We watched McDonagh and Girardi enhance their game tremendously over this past season, even to the point of each of them playing nearly 30 minutes a game night in and night out. This has become a very strong defensive pairing for the Rangers and you can pretty much expect to see them together all throughout next season.
As good of a pair as Girardi and Staal were two seasons ago, McDonagh and Girardi eclipsed that level of performance. Rangers fans are ready for an encore of this pairing.
Defense – Line 2
Marc Staal-Anton StralmanStralman was a player who did not play defense very well before coming over to the Rangers last season, but under Tortorella he improved drastically. Stralman was known much more for his offense before coming over to New York, but under Tortorella’s system he improved. It showed drastically in the second half of the season and in the deep playoff run.
Staal, once one of the Rangers top shut-down defensemen, made his 2011 – 2012 season debut in Philadelphia for the 2012 Winter Classic after missing a year with post-concussion symptoms. Staal very slowly progressed in the season and it was really not until the postseason that we saw the player we were used to.
Look for Staal to move up to the second defensive line with Stralman. The two were paired together frequently in the postseason, and their chemistry was highly effective. Staal’s Game 5 overtime game-winning goal against the Washington Capitals was something of magic – but just before the faceoff, Stralman told Staal to switch positions with him to throw Holtby off. It worked.
Defense – Line 3
Michael Del Zotto-Stu BickelLast but not least we have the third pairing for the Rangers: Michael Del Zotto and tough guy Stu Bickel. This defensive pairing can give you a little bit of everything, Del Zotto with his long passing ability and his work on the power play, and Bickel with his toughness and always showing his heart to stick up for his teammates.
You can expect this to be the bottom pairing until injured Ranger Michael Sauer, who is sidelined with a concussion, comes back and most likely takes the spot from Bickel. But none the less this is still a very good third pairing and completes one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Now lets get ready for the 2012-2013 season Ranger fans, and lets hope it is going to be a good one!