Alain Vigneault guided the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final in his debut season at the helm and followed it up with a Presidents’ Cup-winning effort in 2014-15. But a championship fell out of their grasp yet again as the Lightning stunned them with a Game 7 win at the Garden.
The Metropolitan Division should again belong to the Blueshirts — who open the season tonight in Chicago against the defending-champion Blackhawks — but the window for this team to host a parade down the Canyon of Heroes come June will shortly begin closing.
Here are three questions facing the Rangers entering the regular season.
How will they replace
Hagelin and St. Louis?Carl Hagelin was traded to Anaheim last June in advance of his restricted free agency, and Martin St. Louis retired after piling up 52 points last year. The Rangers will need more production and impact from blossoming youngsters like J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast, each of whom got significant minutes during last season’s run.
Will Nash finally produce during the playoffs?This question will continue to haunt the talented winger until he delivers for New York in the playoffs. Rick Nash has nine goals in 56 postseason games for the Rangers over the past three seasons, and Garden fans have made him the target of most of their ire following each crushing elimination. Nash must put it in the net when it matters most if this team is to take the next and final step to a title.
Can Raanta fill
The Rangers traded Cam Talbot, last season’s more-than-capable backup to Edmonton after he earned most of his 21 wins while Henrik Lundqvist sat out for two months with a neck injury. Antti Raanta went 7-4-1 as a backup for the Blackhawks last season. He likely will have to provide 20 quality starts if the Blueshirts want to keep Lundqvist, entering his 11th NHL season, healthy and rested for another postseason push.