Yes, the Rangers can win the Stanley Cup this season.
I know, I know. Hockey “experts” bemoan the Rangers’ chances because the Boston Bruins have been so dominant. This year, the Bruins have compiled one of the greatest records in National Hockey League history while sweeping all three games against the Rangers to boot.
And yet ...
As any savvy sports fan knows, the 82-game regular season of any team sport means little. Various underachieve. Others struggle through occasional slumps or debilitating injuries. At times, the team carrying the best chance to win the Stanley Cup is either the hottest or the healthiest one in the league as the playoffs approach.
The Rangers, for example, have gotten hot at just the right time, reeling off an 8-3-2 record toward the end of the season.
Likewise, the playoffs can expose the flaws of teams that have experienced highly successful regular seasons. Four years ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning completed one of the most acclaimed regular seasons in NHL history. Then, Tampa got bounced in four straight games of its opening series.
Starting April 17, the playoffs will be six weeks of tension and drama. The last team standing will have earned the Cup, as the Colorado Avalanche did a year ago. I say, why not the Rangers? Perhaps, the team will lift the Stanley Cup for the first time since the 1993-94 season. Here are five reasons why:
1) The Hot Goaltender: Nobody matters more to a hockey team’s fortunes than the goalie. The Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin has the second-most NHL wins this season, a year ago after winning the Vezina Trophy, signifying the league’s best goaltender. He is capable of “standing on his head,” as hockey fans put it, and leading the Rangers to post-season glory.
2) New Blood: The Rangers made three impressive acquisitions at the trade deadline: future hall of famer Patrick Kane, perennial all-star Vladimir Tarasenko and hard-working Tyler Motte. This Rangers lineup looks to be even stronger than the squad that made it to the NHL’s final four last year.
3) Power on the Power Play: In hockey, a team’s power play is often the difference between winning and losing a game. The power play–which occurs when a team’s opponents have committed an infraction, causing one of its skaters to leave the ice and have to sit in the penalty box–has been an asset for the Rangers this year. What depth! Kane and Tarasenko, along with Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin, give the Rangers scoring punch that most other teams dream of possessing.
4) The Adam Fox Factor: Fox, a native of Long Island, won the Norris Trophy, awarded to the NH:’s best defenseman, two season ago and he has played as well as ever this season. You might even declare that ‘as Fox goes, so go the Rangers.’ For a month late in the season, Fox’s defense partner, Ryan Lindgren, was sidelined with an injury. But Lindgren returned, freeing up Fox to be more offensive-minded. If Lindgren stays healthy, look for Fox to give the Rangers one more major scoring threat.
5) Good Health: With the return of defenseman Lindgren, the Rangers have no notable injuries to account for right now. As longtime fans remember through gritted teeth, the Rangers might have won the Stanley Cup in 1972 if Jean Ratelle, its best player, hadn’t suffered a serious leg injury late in the season. The team might have captured the Cup in 1979 had high-flying Ulf Nilsson been at 100 percent. This time, the team appears to have no such red flags.
Let’s meet for a victory toast in the Canyon of Heroes after the Rangers win the Stanley Cup!