New York Rangers Year in Review: 2016

BY Fansided and Brandon Cohen/FanSided via Blue Line Station • January 14, 2017

The New York Rangers amassed a 25-14-5 record in the 2016 portion of the 2015-16 campaign, followed by a 25-12-1 record in the 2016 segment of the 2016-17 campaign. Let’s take a look back at the Rangers year that was.

2016 started off with a whimper for the New York Rangers, as New York fell 3-0 to the Florida Panthers in their first game of the season. The Rangers out-shot the Panthers 40-20 in the game, but could not net the puck past Roberto Luongo. Had 2016 been a year of scoring struggles, the game could have worked as a microcosm. Instead, two games later better represents the year 2016.

On January 9, 2016, the Rangers hosted the Washington Capitals. Washington jolted out of the gates for a 2-0 lead, thanks in part to a power-play goal by Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s goal was assisted by Dan Girardi of the Rangers. Yes, you read that correctly.

Ovechkin’s goal was Girardi’s worst turnover of the year, and it was rightfully mocked.

New York battled back using their scoring depth to find the back of the net a trio of times. Scoring was not a problem for the Rangers in 2016, nor was forward depth. However, a problem the Rangers did face was holding the lead.

Up 3-2 with less than a minute remaining, the Rangers shelled. Washington capitalized on New York’s defense over offense choice, and scored with six seconds remaining in the third period. In overtime, Alexander Ovechkin used New York’s skaters as turnstiles and ended the game to give the Capitals the victory.

Thus, the year 2016 in a nutshell for the Rangers. New York could not play a complete game, struggled to contain opponents’ top scorers, suffered through various miscues by Dan Girardi, and watched Henrik Lundqvist have to compensate for the ghastly defense in front of him. What ended one season continued into the next, as the Rangers held onto Dan Girardi in the offseason.

The remainder of the 2016 portion of the 2015-16 season was a rollercoaster. At times the Rangers looked like the Rangers of old, winning four in a row against the Minnesota Wild, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, and Pittsburgh Penguins. At other times, New York looked hopeless, surrendering a trio of contests to the Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres, and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Offensively, New York had the talent. Defensively, New York’s disastrous play only got worse. The defensive ineptitude was most evident in the first round of the playoffs. Facing off against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers were knocked out in five games, allowing 21 goals in the quintet. Pittsburgh scored 4.2 goals per game, compared to the Rangers 2.0 goals per game.

Following the disastrous exit, Jeff Gorton set out to improve the Rangers. To do so, New York parted with Derick Brassard, Dominic Moore, Eric Staal, Viktor Stalberg, and Keith Yandle, bringing in Adam Clendening, Michael Grabner, Nick Holden, Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Vesey, and Mika Zibanejad.

The influx of forwards allowed the Rangers to rocket off to a 13-4 start, as New York scored at an unheard of pace. The 2016-17 Rangers feature four skill lines when healthy, moving away from enforcers and gritty players in favor of talented scorers.

Rookies Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey joined the fray, while Kevin Hayes (who lost 20 pounds in the offseason) and J.T. Miller saw their roles increase. While scoring more, the Rangers also became a younger team, a combo any team would be thrilled with.

Unfortunately, as 2016 comes to an end, the defense remains a major problem for the Rangers. Dan Girardi is still on the top pair, while Brady Skjei’s development and the surprising talent of Nick Holden have not stopped the defensive woes. Henrik Lundqvist remains under fire, while the Rangers remain trying to outscore their own defense.

All things considered, the best way to recap the year 2016 is to say it was an expected rollercoaster. With the Rangers offense and goaltending as talented as they are, New York should be an elite team. Instead, the defense drags the organization down, making every game a question mark.

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