New York Rangers’ Hayes, Miller, and Grabner Line Can’t be Key

Jan 4, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Rangers right wing Michael Grabner (40) celebrates his goal with left wing J.T. Miller (10) against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. The Rangers defeated the Flyers, 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 4, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Rangers right wing Michael Grabner (40) celebrates his goal with left wing J.T. Miller (10) against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. The Rangers defeated the Flyers, 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /
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Since the beginning of 2017, the  New York Rangers’ “third” line consisting of Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, and Michael Grabner has been the center of New York Rangers related conversation. With a huge spike in scoring, some are looking to this line to lead the Rangers’ to the Stanley Cup. Ranger fans shouldn’t count on this line to continue their pace.

Of the seven games in which J.T. Miller has not registered a point this year, five have been within the last two weeks. Michael Grabner is goal-less in his last eight games after starting 2017 with five goals in three games. Kevin Hayes has only one assist in his past six games. The drop in production has been a ticking time bomb for the team.

As fun as this line is to watch, we would be crazy to think that they can perform this way through the playoffs.

Michael Grabner is proving that his scoring comes in streaks, which is fine. The Rangers will take the scoring when they can get it. Streaky scoring alone from Grabner won’t be enough to propel them to a cup.

Whether as a unit or individually, the Hayes-Grabner-Miller line is going to face some struggles scoring. More teams will become hesitant to let their defensemen cheat in the Rangers zone while Hayes Grabner or Miller are on the ice. How many times have we seen an odd-man rush from these guys? Teams will adjust to this style of play and slow down the three goal scorers.

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The “Hay, Grab me a Miller” line needs to play their role for the Rangers to be successful. Playing defensively responsible hockey is what this line does best.

At even strength and on the penalty kill, each of the three has proved themselves more than capable in their own end. When competing for a cup, a line like this one is just as important as a typical “goal scoring” first line.

There are tons of teams that have lines that can score. For example, let’s take the Dallas Stars. The problem is pretty clear cut in Dallas, and it’s not an offensive one. With scorers like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, they aren’t hurting for goals often. They are slightly better than league average for goals scored.

While league average scoring might not seem like a problem, it leaves out the fact that the Stars have let up more goals than any other team this season. Yes, they’ve even given up more goals than the abysmal Colorado Avalanche.

Obviously, Dallas has huge problems on the blue line and in net. I’m in no way trying to argue that their forwards are the main issue. As fans, we like to blame goaltenders and defensemen alone for weak defense. On the penalty kill, the Stars once again find themselves at the bottom of the barrel.

Related Story: New York Rangers’ penalty kill is making a difference

This simply illustrates the point that I was trying to make, as scoring isn’t always the highest priority. Teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets have figured out a way to score goals in bunches without giving up many defensively. If we take a look at their roster, it’s a built somewhat similarly to the Rangers.

John Tortorella’s team is made up of 4 lines that compete defensively and have the ability to score goals. There aren’t many players on the roster that terrify defenses with their pure skill. They play responsible hockey and put away their opportunities.

This kind of game is what the Rangers need to play in order to be successful.

Goal scoring from Hayes, Grabner and Miller isn’t going to continue at their January rate. If the Rangers plan on making a run at the Stanley Cup, they need scorers like Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, and Mats Zuccarello to pick up the slack left by Hayes, Grabner and Miller.

Once again, the depth of this team is their saving grace.

Next: New York Rangers Not Hurt by Rick Nash’s Slow Scoring

As long as they are able to play responsible hockey at even strength and shorthanded, they will remain a key part of the Rangers push for a cup. But don’t expect Hayes, Miller, and Grabner to lead the Rangers postseason scoring efforts.