As 2017 came to a close, the New York Rangers displayed inconsistencies across the board. While November showed glistening moments, December started to show cracks in the team’s structure. Here are the New York Rangers winners and losers.
New York Rangers Winners and Losers of December 2017
The Blueshirts went 7-3-3 throughout 2017’s final month, including a big skid right before the Christmas break with losses against the New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs. There was one Ranger however that executed night after night for his team. To no one’s surprise, that player is Henrik Lundqvist.
Despite consistent criticism, Lundqvist continues to be one of the most ready-to-play members on the Rangers roster. He’s pushing 36-years-old and continuously steps onto the ice with the same ferocity and desire to win as 12 seasons ago. Throughout the month of December, Lundqvist finished nine of 13 games. Not once did his save percentage sink below .900. His best was .975 against the Anaheim Ducks, stopping 39 of 40 shots. Lundqvist continued to perform exceedingly well for his team, despite the collapsing defense in front of him, always giving his team a chance to win. For example, he was pelted with 48 shots against the New Jersey Devils before a shoot out loss. Without Lundqvist in net, that game would have been over far before extra time began.
The Swedish dynamo also continued to shatter records. On December 13th he surpassed the 20,000 save mark. He is the 15th goaltender in NHL history to reach that milestone. Currently, the netminder is the easily one of the most successful goalies in Rangers franchise history. Lundqvist has the most playoff wins, the most shutouts and the most wins of any Rangers goalie, and that’s just naming a few.
This one is a surprise but it’s undeniable. Paul Carey has shown up for the Rangers in a big way, making him one of December’s winners. Carey has 10 points on the season, seven of those being earned in the final month of 2017. His chemistry on the fourth line with a combination of Pavel Buchnevich, Boo Nieves and Jesper Fast allowed the Rangers to access a depth not foreseen in the preseason. Averaging just around 11 minutes of ice time per game, Carey isn’t over-utilized but remains reliable, which is especially important as Chris Kreider remains out of the line up with a blood clot in his right arm.
Before joining the Rangers, Carey played a total of 32 NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche and Washington Capitals. With 28 Blueshirt games under his belt so far, Carey is well on his way to breaking his previous total and earning more points along the way.
If there was a newspaper column for Nick Holden, it would be titled “What are you doing?” Holden is quite literally all over the place for the Rangers, mirroring the teams own inconsistencies. However, the difference with Holden is he can be decent and awful in the same game. Since November, he has added 10 more giveaways for a total of 29. Also, when Holden is on the ice, the Rangers have a shooting percentage of 12.4 percent, essentially meaning that the puck is far closer to Holden in the defensive zone than it should be. It remains to be seen why Vigneault keeps placing him on the top pairing with Ryan McDonagh.
Hayes may be a surprising pick to some for the losers but nonetheless, it’s true. Hayes is in the doghouse for the month of December because he will not shoot the puck. Fancy stick handling is great if you can execute but if you’re not getting pucks to the net, or in it, no one is impressed. Hayes also needs to brush up on his rule book because he is consistently off-sides, costing the Rangers valuable scoring chances. His shooting percentage in the last five games of December was 11.6 percent. However, when Hayes does register a shooting percentage, as he did in four games in December, he scores. There’s no question that as the Rangers enter 2018, they need to demand more from Hayes.
Rick Nash. Once the golden boy, the star, he has fallen. Nash should be a top liner for the Rangers, that was always destined to be his role. Unfortunately for him, he cannot deliver. He registered a mere two goals in December. In fact, those are his only two goals in his last 21 games.
For his $7.85 million a year price tag, Nash should be performing at a much higher level. It’s no surprise that he is rumored to be on the trading block. The Rangers would be much better suited dumping him from their cap space and capitalizing on a more eager forward, not even necessarily younger. Take Carey as an example. He gets paid a small fraction of Nash’s salary at 29-years-old but is outperforming him by a landslide.
Wake up Nash or you’re going to find yourself packing your bags out of New York.