Like any team not named the Yankees in New York, the Rangers face an enormous amount of pressure every season without many successes. Despite sporting many good teams over the years, they’ve only won one Stanley Cup since World War II and seem to have as many postseason collapses as the Knicks and Mets. So with this year’s Rangers team limping into the playoffs as a Wild Card team, you would think the story would play out the same, right?
After beating the Montreal Canadiens in overtime of Game 5, oddsmakers have the Rangers as heavy, 5-1 favorites to win the series ahead of tonight's game. Therefore, it might actually be safe to say the following sentence: the New York Rangers can win the Stanley Cup.
First of all, everyone knows the most important weapon to have in the NHL postseason is a great goalie. The Nashville Predators just swept the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks based almost entirely on goalie Pekka Rinne’s amazing play. The Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist, one of the best goaltenders in the league who just happens to be playing at a high level right now. In this series with the Canadiens, his save percentage is over 94 percent and he’s giving up less than two goals per game. If Lundqvist is at the top of his game, it’s no secret the Rangers are dangerous.
You know what else makes a team dangerous? Scoring goals. And the Rangers do that. A lot. They finished fourth in the NHL this season in goals scored per game with 3.1. They did this despite the fact that their points leader, Mats Zuccarello, only tallied 59 on the season, which would make him 44th in the league. Why is that a good thing? It means they’re not reliant on one or two guys to do all their scoring. The balanced Rangers are a deep team with several guys who can put the puck in the net.
But in order to win the Cup, you still need stars — and the Rangers have that star: Rick Nash. Sure, the highly paid forward has received criticism over the years for not coming up clutch in the postseason, particularly when he tallied only 10 points in 25 games during the 2014 playoffs. But Nash has stepped it up lately. He’s scored two goals already in the series against the Canadiens, and he’s recorded 13 points in his last 13 playoff games. If Nash continues his improved play throughout the playoffs, the Rangers will be hard to beat.
So while the Washington Capitals are struggling to beat the inexperienced Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks are (somehow) already out of the playoffs, now seems like a perfect time for the Rangers to hoist Lord Stanley.
But then again, I also bet on the Blackhawks winning it all, so what do I know?
Photo credit: Creative Commons