Lundqvist, Nash, and Stepan Must Step Up for Rangers to Get Better

12/27/13 in NHL   |   patrickhoffman3530   |   122 respect

Oct 3, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal (18) celebrates with center Derek Stepan (21), left wing Rick Nash (61), center J.T. Miller (10) and center Brad Richards (19) after scoring a power play goal during the second period against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY SportsWith 44 games to go in the NHL's regular season, the New York Rangers need to be able to find a way from being one of the league's most inconsistent teams to a club that can win on any given night if they want to get into the postseason in the tight Eastern Conference.

At 18-18-2 and currently ninth in the East, this Rangers' hockey club has been an enigma all season long. There are three players on this team who can help change that stigma and get the Rangers where they need to be in order to be successful.

For the Blueshirts, it all starts and ends with franchise netminder Henrik Lundqvist. Prior to this season, Lundqvist was one of the league's best and most consistent goaltenders as he kept the team's goals against average down, made a lot of big saves when the team needed it the most and more importantly, won a lot of hockey games.

That has
not been the case for the "King" this season. Lundqvist is 10-15-2 with a 2.77 goals against average, a .907 save percentage and two shutouts, numbers that are well below what the team and their fans are accustomed to and as a result, has seen back-up goaltender Cam Talbot get a lot more playing time than he probably should be at this point in the season.

When Lundqvist is on top of his game, the Rangers are one of the toughest clubs to play against in the NHL. Lundqvist can make the big save, can keep his team in the hockey game and can win games all by himself and if he can get back to doing that, the Rangers will start winning a lot more hockey games than they are now.

Rick Nash is another Rangers' player that needs to get his game going in order for this team to succeed. Nash is a player that can dangle with the best of them, use his size to get into good scoring position and is not afraid to shoot the puck.

This season, however, Nash has not been producing as much as he should be. Yes, the
concussion he suffered has negatively impacted his numbers but even when he has been in the lineup both this season and last season, he has not produced like everyone thought he would.

In 21 games this season, Nash has just 14 points (six goals and eight assists). For someone who should be scoring between 30-40 goals a season, these numbers are simply not good enough and must get better if the team's offense is going to be a factor during the most important time of the season.

Speaking of being a factor on offense for the Rangers, Derek Stepan has not been one of those this season. After leading the team with 44 points (18 goals and 26 assists) last season, Stepan has been extremely inconsistent for the Rangers this year.

In 38 games, Stepan has just 23 points (7 goals and 16 assists) and has often found himself off the score sheet at the end of many games this season. For someone the team
 signed to a two-year deal worth $6.15 million prior to the start of the season, Stepan is not earning his keep.

When on his game, Stepan is someone who goes hard to the net, knows how to set up scoring chances for his teammates and is all over the score sheet offensively. The Rangers need this Stepan to return to form and help out a generally low-scoring offense if they want to have any kind of chance of having a successful rest of the season.

With almost half the season played, it is time for Lundqvist, Nash, and Stepan to get back to doing what they do best because if they are not able to, the Rangers will be in serious trouble.
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