Q&A with Mike Monti of Blue Line Station
Who’s been the biggest surprise for the New York Rangers and why?
MM: Michael Grabner. When he signed the two-year, $3.3 million contract, we were expecting to see someone who has struggled with converting on the opportunities his speed provided him. As of right now, he has scored 13 times and has four assists so far. Grabner seemed to have clicked well when on a line with J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes.
The Canuck Way
Who’s been the biggest disappointment and why?
MM: Coming into the season, one of the biggest concerns for the Rangers was defense. Kevin Klein was a defenseman that the Rangers acquired through a trade with Nashville, sending Michael Del Zotto to the Predators and Klein to the Rangers.
Since joining the team in the 2013-14 season, Klein was a mainstay on the blue line for the team. This season he seems a little slow and has had some costly turnovers. He was a healthy scratch the other night in Buffalo and bounced back well against Carolina on Saturday.
What has been the key to the Rangers’ success offensively?
MM: Their speed. Another big concern this offseason was making the team faster. They looked extremely slow against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs last season, losing in five.
The acquisition of Michael Grabner and Jimmy Vesey, and a few returning young players, made them faster. At the beginning of the season, their speed provided the team with plenty of scoring chances.
Their speed also helped with their will to never give up. Even if they gave up a goal, their speed helped them bounce back and score shortly after. Something they lacked years past.
What separates the Rangers from the rest of the Eastern Conference?
MM: Simple, Henrik Lundqvist. When Lundqvist is on his game, there isn’t a goalie in the conference or league that can touch him. Lundqvist’s biggest problem, he starts the season slowly and finishes strong. I strongly believe if Lundqvist played on any powerhouse team, in the East or West, e.g. the Blackhawks, they would have been Cup contenders every year.
The Rangers will beat the Blackhawks if?
MM: Alain Vigneault goes back to some original lineups. There have been injuries that have caused a shakeup, so that’s understandable. But he broke up a line of Michael Grabner-Kevin Hayes-J.T. Miller. A line that combined for four goals and nine points against the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 30.
This was while the Lightning had Ben Bishop in net. The same Ben Bishop that helped Tampa beat the Rangers in seven games in the 2014-15 Eastern Conference finals and had a .940 career save percentage against the Rangers. If they go back to this, the chemistry the team has been lacking should return.