In recent times, the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers were almost always on different paths. One tredning up and the other down.
It has been some time since the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers both found themselves with quality teams. When Blues lost Wayne Gretzky to the Rangers, somehow New York was on a downward trend while the Blues went the other way.
St. Louis had a dark period in the mid-2000’s. The Rangers were constantly between 90 and 100 points and in the playoffs.
Call it the Mike Keenan effect if you will. A pox on both teams for a stretch after his time at each was done.
Now, the two teams share other attributes. They are constantly thought of as championship contenders, only to have faulty Spring seasons and fall flat at the wrong times.
Both teams never seem to have what they need at the right time. They’re good defensively when they don’t have offense. They have great goaltending when defense is harder to come by. Etc. and so on and so forth for both.
Over the summer, both teams were constantly being paired together. While there were other teams that made more noise, there was always talks of a Rangers/Blues pairing when it came to addressing the defensive needs of New York and the offensive needs of St. Louis.
Of course, we all know nothing came to fruition. That does not mean something could not happen in the future, but it was strange to hear so much and not really come that close to an actual trade.
Now, the Rangers and Blues are focusing on their upcoming 2016-17 seasons. They both still have title hopes, but their offseasons went quite differently.
St. Louis, as we know, made a fairly significant shift in philosophy by dropping some very popular names from the roster to get younger and quicker. New York made very few summer moves, which irritated some, has others scratching their heads and even more wondering where New York stands among the elite of the East.
Interestingly, the biggest signing the Rangers may have made was not someone they initially expected to get. It didn’t happen until August, when they picked up free agent rookie, Jimmy Vesey.
Vesey was a third round draft pick by the Nashville Predators in 2012. He made it quite clear he had no intentions of playing in the Music City when he stayed all four years at Harvard.
Vesey proved to be an accomplished college player. He scored 56 goals in his last two collegiate seasons alone. Whether that translates into the NHL remains to be seen.
Since it is expected Vesey will play right away, it may have been beneficial for the Rangers to keep some of their bigger names. Rick Nash still being on the roster, takes some heat off the kid and allows him more time to grow.
Grabner is a decent pickup only because he’s been in New York before, with the Islanders. He will not be shocked by the media attention there. However, he is a third line player at best right now and coming off a terrible year with the Maple Leafs.
Gerbe falls into the same category in terms of having a poor season and not having much expected. The plus side for him is he’s just about a like for like swap for one of the guys the Rangers lost in the offseason.
Perhaps the biggest name loss for the Rangers was Keith Yandle. Yandle had some difficulties adjusting to New York at first, but had seemed to settle in.
He was a disappointment when first arriving at the trade deadline in 2015. Yandle then came alive for 47 points last year.
Given the enormous contract the Florida Panthers gave Yandle, it’s understandable why the Rangers let him walk. However, given the fact Anthony Duclair – one of the players New York traded away for Yandle – just scored 44 points in his first real NHL season, the loss stings a bit more.
Yandle’s loss was thought to have clinched a deal with the Blues or someone else to acquire more puck moving defenders. As we noted, Kevin Shattenkirk is still a member of the Blues and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.
Stalberg is the player referenced above. He had 20 points in 2015-16. Gerbe is basically going to replace that production as long as he is healthy.
Speaking of health, it was a dreadful year for Staal. The once supremely talented took a nose dive in 2015-16.
He was not injured, or at least missed no games in the season. Still, he just never looked right once arriving in New York and only produced six points in 20 games.
This one is quite murky. It seems unlikely the Rangers will crash out of the playoff picture, considering they had the fourth best record in the entire conference.
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Still, they’re heavily reliant on a goaltender who is entering his mid-30’s. Finding no suitable replacement for Yandle will also mean the team could struggle swinging the offense from their own zone.
Also, Chris Kreider‘s contract issue could be a bit of turning on the light while the film develops in the dark room. Kreider was fourth on the team in goals, expecting to be rewarded and has yet to work out an extension.
Players usually play well in contract years. However, if the team works on an extension during the season, it may have an adverse affect.
In the end, it may come down to Henrik Lundqvist. If he stays healthy and can shoulder the load again, they’ll be fine.
If not, we may have a Carey Price situation where the team folds. Ultimately, the Rangers’ saving grace may be a fairly weak division in the Metropolitan.
I expect them to be a playoff team. They could very well get passed up by the Islanders, though, and have to depend on the wild card.
The Blues usually tend to have poorer records against “Original Six” teams. Their marker against the Rangers is particularly poor though.
St. Louis is 45-82-16 in their history against the Blueshirts. The Blues have fared better in this decade, going 7-4, but they dropped both contests last year.
The Rangers took the game in St. Louis 2-1 and then walloped the Blues in Madison Square Garden 6-3.
The Garden has not been a friendly place for the Blues. They have only won 24.6% of their games in that building.
St. Louis will play in that very venue on Tuesday, November 1. Their home game will come before that on Saturday, October 5.
Being from the New York area, Shattenkirk tends to have good games against the Rangers. Whether for the pure reason of helping the Blues or to show off for a potential new team, expect more of the same this season.
The Blues may not take both games, but expect them to at least split the series. It’s always a tough call when Lundqvist is on form though.