The New York Rangers are playing their best hockey since the 1993-94 season, the last time they raised the Stanley Cup.
With 27 games remaining the Rangers sit atop the Eastern Conference with with 79 points (37-13-5). They have beaten the likes of the Boston Bruins (70 pts), the Pittsburgh Penguins (69 pts), and the Philadelphia Flyers (69 pts). The Rangers have shown they can play with the best, and beat the best of the East, but can they ride this wave of success to a Stanley Cup Championship?
Throughout the season the Rangers have shown a strong defense and timely scoring, and they have a goaltender who is the frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy.
Marion Gaborik’s 27 goals and 49 points lead the Rangers this season. Gaborik has recovered from an injury plagued season last year and has already eclipsed last year’s goal total. Ryan Callahan has been red hot in his last four games with six goals, and is second on the team with 42 points.
The Rangers have been getting contributions from the top line to bottom line. Brad Richards has been in a goal slump since the All Star break but looks to break out of it at any time. Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov have been playing at a high level all season and do not look to be slowing down. The two have combined for 21 goals and 65 points this season.
The Rangers defense has stood strong all season and own the best goals against in the NHL with 106. Dan Girardi has been the anchor of the defense, averaging 27 minutes a game. Girardi helped keep the defense stingy during the absence of Marc Staal.
Michael Del Zotto has been the biggest surprise of the season After an underachieving sophomore season that ended in Connecticut, Del Zotto has played sensational hockey and leads the team with a plus-27 rating.
Henrik Lundqvist has been the team’s MVP so far this season. Lundqvist’s numbers speak for themselves. He boasts a 1.77 Goals Against Average and a .941 Save Percentage. Lundqvist has been playing at an elite level all season, and if you look at the Stanley Cup Champions from the last 10 years, they ride a hot goaltender through their playoff run.
Backup goaltender Martin Biron has given Lundqvist the rest he has needed this season, especially in back to back games. This rest will allow Lundqvist to continue to go into the Playoffs feeling better than past years.
With the trade deadline approaching there have been talks the Rangers are looking for another top scorer to complete their team. The Rangers do not need another top scorer, they don’t need anyone right now. The Rangers need to continue playing the same hockey they have all season and stay healthy.
My prediction is that the Rangers are ready to go back to the Stanley Cup Finals. Hernik Lundqvist will put them on his back when they need him, and Brad Richards will break out of his slump and put up points in the payoffs. John Tortorella will not allow his team to let off the gas at all, and he will push them until they are champions.
The Rangers have a great mix of players who have all bought into head coach John Tortorella’s system. They are poised to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and right now look like a Stanley Cup team.