Sunday, February 12, 2012
New York Rangers: Why they will win the Stanley Cup
The New York Rangers are currently the best team in their conference. Entering today, they have 75 points to lead the Eastern Conference and only one point away from the best record in the entire NHL. How are they doing it? Goal tending, timely scoring and depth.
First, they are led by their wall in front of the net, Henrik Lundqvist. His 1.81 Goals Against average is second in the NHL and his .939 Save Pct leads all of hockey. He has been nearly lights out this season. The defense in front of him has been much improved as well. The Rangers are 5th in the league in Penalty Kills with 86.6 Pct. Overall, Lundqvist and the defense rank 2nd in Goals Against as a team overall.
Next, the Rangers rank 12th in scoring overall, but when they combine the defense with their scoring opportunities, they make the most of their goals. Marian Gaborik leads the way with 27 goals. He is followed by team captain Ryan Callahan with 21 and then the newest Rangers star, Brad Richards with 17.
Besides showing some firepower between these three, the offense is passing the puck extremely well and spreading the scoring wealth. Derek Stepan (26), Michael Del Zotto (22), Gaborik (21), Richards (21) and Callahan (19) have all lead the way in Assists this year. The Rangers spread it around and use their Offensive and Defensive balance very well.
Finally, they are deep across all of their lines. As just eluded to, they have multiple options. Players like Del Zotto, Stepan, Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov have all been a force this season as members of a supporting cast around the big three. Overall, this team has blended together well and is soaring in the regular season.
Sports, is not about the regular season, though. It's all about how you finish. We saw an example of this just a week ago when the Giants hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in improbable fashion. The Rangers were missing Callahan last season for the playoffs after barely squeaking in. Without their spark, the Rangers looked lifeless and were eventually eliminated.
This season, they are in a prime position to enter the playoffs, if they continue this pace, as the number one seed. That would pit them against the lowest team in the Eastern Conference and surely would set them up for the ability to advance onto the next round with little problem.
As the playoffs continue, they will be able to rely on three things to outlast the league and win it all: hot goal tending, experience and confidence. They have all of the tools now to convert these keys into a Stanley Cup.
If Lundqvust continues his season he will be the standout goalie in the playoffs and the main reason they will win. When combined with their ability to burn penalties, the Rangers defense will be hard to score on, even in the playoffs.
Next, they have been here before. This is a team that has made the playoffs consistently over the past few seasons. While they have not been extremely successful in them, they can still utilize that knowledge of the past and apply those lessons to each situation and scenario in these playoffs. They will not be caught off guard by anything and that helps to maintain an even keel and a calm demeanor in the midst of a wild and hyper playoffs.
Finally, there is a new confidence in this team this season. That swagger can go a long way. They know they can beat anyone at any rink. That allows them to be in a position where they are never intimidated and that goes a long way in helping them feel like they can and will win.
All of these factors combine to set the stage for a terrific end to the season and an even more spectacular playoffs. If they hold true to the tendencies they have established already to this point, they will once again raise Lord Stanley's Cup as the best team in the NHL.