Teams seem to alternate years that are better than expected with years that are worse. Not all coincidence, after a good year other teams get more pumped to play you, you see less back-up goalies, players tend to relax and think they can win just by lacing up skates, etc.
This is liable to be an "up" year, with lots of competition for slots, new faces, energing stars (McD, Stepan), and guys like Nash more adjusted to playing here.
Still not really very impressed with the forward lines, at best they are adequate. But the Flyers and Devils are liable to be much worse than usual this year, Tampa and Carolina still have big holes, and we are far superior to the Fishsticks.
Plus I think the new coach will make a difference (at least until the bloom comes off the rose).
A lot of things went right for us in 11-12. Torts's style needed those things to go right. It was a simple game in ways and simple games need to be executed perfectly and have things go our way. That was the case. One reason for my overall lack of faith in Torts is his inability to coach strategically through 4 rounds of playoffs against 4 competent teams with competent coaches and coaching staffs.
Whether or not we can go further than 11-12, our more balanced team is better suited for a deep playoff run and like Hank said, we need everyone to be contributing and playing their best during the playoffs and I think the defining thing about AV will be about how he works the lineups and the players to try and have all cylinders firing from all 3/4 lines.
We should have more depth. Having a good 3rd--4th line takes pressure off the top lines. We have several young forwards as well knocking on the door--Kreider, Miller, Lindberg, Kristo, Fasth, Hrivik. It's a good situation. Just having Staal healthy and even close to where he was makes us a much better team.
Richards OTOH I'm not counting on him for too much.
the 2012 team had a LOT of luck go their way though. The injury bug stayed away for the most part, Lundqvist was out of this stratosphere from December to February where they won a lot of games, etc. I think this team playing to their strengths will be definitely a better team than 2012, our depth was **** then and it's better now. But again, like every SC winner, luck really has to go their way. So yes, I think this team can be better, but will it?
Edit: The biggest advantage this team has over the 12 team IMO is defensive depth. In game 3 against WSH, Torts rolled like 3 defensemen that whole overtime. No more Stu Bickel, and all of the d-men can play 20 minutes a game. Having a bottom pairing of Moore/Stralman/DZ is such a luxury that this team really needs to take advantage of.
Without seeing the players on the ice together for at least 20 or so games, it's impossible to know. There are a lot of factors--the ones I see as important are:
1--how good will the centers be? Can Richards rebound, does Stepan continue play like he did last season, can Bassard finally become consistant and play at the level we saw during the playoffs, will Boyle and/or Moore rebound and give AV the type of defensive play he wants?
2--the defense has to play good defense and provide more of a quick transition game that the team needs to generate offense. Hopefully, we'll finally see everyone healthy too!
3--Lundqvist has to play well and Biron has to play well enough early in the season so he's trusted enough to play 18-20 games. Lundqvist is in great shape obviously, but goaltending is as much about mental toughness and concentration--getting games off helps keep goaltenders focused at the end of the season and during the playoffs.
There are other questions; can Kreider get his head and skills working better together? Can J. Moore (who's only played 111 NHL games)continue his development? Will the team find replacements for the games missed by Callahan and Hagelin? Can any of the prospects push themselves into the lineup and provide a boost?
But, most of all, will the players find chemistry together in a new system? In the end great individual play--while necessary for success--is not as important as how all the pieces fit together. Two seasons ago, everything fit--even with the injuries--last season, not so much.
We don't need Kreider to be a difference maker per se, we need one of Lindberg, Fast, Hrivik, Kristo, or Kreider to be a difference maker. Richards we absolutely need playing above a bantam level. Figure if we get one young guy catching fire or a couple of them at different times they supplement us enough to make it over the hump and perform closer to '11-'12.
It's unlikely but I think if he's given a chance on the PP, he can make a lot more out of it than what's been expected of his skill set.
So why doesn’t Hagelin get a chance on the power play, which is 2 for 31 in the playoffs going into Game 2 against the Boston Bruins on Sunday?
“Because he stinks on the power play,” Tortorella said after the Rangers practiced Saturday. “I don’t know why. I wish I could play him on the power play. Every time I put him on, he stinks.”
Thus began an extended, entertaining exchange between Tortorella and reporters on Hagelin’s absence from the power play, with Tortorella frequently employing the word “stinks.”
“I think he’s too quick,” Tortorella said when asked what Hagelin did wrong on the power play. “I think he’s a jitterbug and he screws it up. But I may use him — I’d love to. And I’m not trying to be a smart aleck. He stinks on the power play every time I put him on there.”
It was pointed out that plenty of Rangers stink on the power play these days.
“Yeah, it’s true,” Tortorella said. “That’s why he may get an opportunity. I’m not sure if he will or not.”
(The Rangers ranked 23rd in power-play percentage in the regular season, scoring 15.7 percent of the time. And Boston was fourth in penalty kills at 87.1 percent.)
Tortorella said he had never encountered a player like Hagelin, who does “everything else well” but not the power play.
“It screws me up too, because I’d like to put him on the power play,” Tortorella said. “But he stinks on the power play.
“I can’t figure him out. I love the guy — as I’ve told the guys who cover the team, he’s such an effective player. But as I’ve said here many times, he stinks on the power play.”
Tortorella was asked if he had talked to Hagelin about it.
“I’ve asked him why he stinks on the power play,” Tortorella said, by this time smiling broadly.
And what did Hagelin say in response?
“Not too much,” Tortorella said. “He’s a good player. He’s really important to us, but it just has not worked out there. But he may get an opportunity if we keep on going.”
The way JT uses his guys and certain skill sets in general and on average is on one end of the spectrum compared to most coaches that allow players more roles and molds depending on the situation and the line up. I'm not sure about AV and the rest of the coaching staff, but I'm pretty damn excited to see how some players are going to be used compared to how Torts used them.
I was waiting in line at the bank on Saturday. The guy in front of me noticed I was wearing a Rangers t-shirt. He looks at me and says Kreider is scoring 30 goals this season. I told him if Kreider scores 30 goals,the Rangers are winning the eastern conference. #1 seed in the conference. I would take 15-20 and be very happy.
The Rangers biggest bugaboo is goal scoring. They will need Stepan to continue his 13 play over an 82 game season. 75 point center. Nash to score 40. Callahan to score 20-22 when he returns after missing the first few weeks with the shoulder. Richards was on a 60 point pace in 13 and he looked terrible. He had 66 points in 11-12. Hagelin to chip in with 15. Zuccarello. Kreider. Hopefully JT Miller gets an opportunity.