1. The Rangers have been hot lately with five straight wins and a record of 7-3-0 in their past ten games. What's the driving factor behind the team's recent success?
It’s hard to pin down a single factor behind the team’s recent improved play but you really can’t go wrong saying the deciding factor is the play of Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist had a shaky start to the season and looked, for the first time in a long time, very average. However, he’s been on his game lately and has been adding to his career highlight reel with ridiculous saves. Hank is doing everything he can to keep his team in games lately. There has also been some scoring from unexpected places of late, including Ryan McDonagh who now has 14 goals on the season as well as some production from the Rangers bottom six forwards.
2. So, Martin St. Louis for Ryan Callahan. Now that it's been a few weeks since the trade deadline and everything has sunk in, what do you think?
The Rangers are 8-3-1 since the St. Louis trade and even though Callahan is currently out-producing Marty since the trade we’ll happily take the winning record over the personal stats. St. Louis’ personal stats are going to improve because he’s Martin St. Louis and he’s quite used to overcoming adversity and piling up points. No one is immune to scoring slumps and droughts as we learned (again) early this season when Claude Giroux couldn’t buy a goal. St. Louis makes the Rangers a better team not only for the remainder of this season but for next season as well. A lot of Rangers fans are uncomfortable with Marty scoring just 3 assists in 12 games but as I said before, the points are going to come.
3. Rangers prospect Adam Tambellini is having a pretty good season so far for the Calgary Hitmen with 39 points in 31 games after leaving the University of North Dakota. What do you think of his future potential as an NHLer?
I’m certainly not Blueshirt Banter’s resident prospect guy but I do know that Rangers fans are excited about everyone the club took in the third round of last year’s draft, although Tambellini might be the one we are least excited about (who can blame us, given what Duclair and Buchnevich have done this year). There is a lot to be excited about with Tambellini; good size, good instincts offensively, and a nice pedigree as well but it’s hard to guess what his ultimate potential is. The Rangers don’t have the best track record with developing and calling up forwards (especially centers) so I just can’t be sure where he is on the pecking order and when we might see him in the NHL. In my opinion, he looks like a third line center with offensive upside but it’s a bit early to make judgments like that.
4. How big of a blow is losing Chris Kreider to injury?
17 goals in 66 games doesn’t really reveal just how valuable Kreider was to the Rangers. During parts of the season Kreider was the most impressive Rangers forward on the ice and drove the opposition crazy with his rare blend of speed, size, and skill. Not having Kreider in the lineup for what looks like a significant amount of time is a huge blow to the Rangers’ depth scoring. No one can replace what he brings to the lineup but J.T. Miller is hardly a slouch and the Rangers are going to look for him to make a case for himself to stay in the lineup not only for the remainder of this season but for next season as well.
5. After finishing the season in sixth place in the East in 2013 and being eliminated in the Conference Semi-Finals, do you think the Rangers have improved enough to have a chance at advancing further in the post season this spring?
On paper they have improved significantly since last season but there are still some visible growing pains with the coaching transition, especially in the defensive zone. If Lundqvist continues to play the way he has been playing and if the Rangers get some more consistent production from the big names in the lineup the Rangers could make a lot of noise in the 2014 NHL Playoffs. The real question is how healthy the team can stay and whether or not the team can put it altogether.
Thanks again Mike! Don't forget to check out Blueshirt Banter for more great Rangers content!