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How far can the Rangers go?

May 14, 2014, 2:52 AM EDT

After a spirited rebound from a 3-1 series deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins thanks in part to Henrik Lundqvist‘s great goaltending, you can forgive some Rangers fans for wondering if this is “the year.” PHT examines some of the top reasons why this may or may not be the time for a big run.

“Resiliency”

That term gets thrown around a lot in sports, yet this might be one of the more appropriate instances. The Rangers have been thrust into some trying situations and fought through them during this season and postseason, although it hasn’t always been pretty.

As a new head coach, Alain Vigneault began the season with a nine-game road trip that left them with a 3-6-0 record but may have planted a seed that this team would need to roll with the punches in 2013-14.

New York memorably played two back-to-backs and six games in nine nights between the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh series, which is quite the uncommon run in the postseason. (Teams generally – but not universally – receive one night between each game while they’re active in a series.) Most importantly in the “resiliency” category, they’ve fought off elimination four times already, with Lundqvist allowing a single goal in each game.

It also seems fitting that the Rangers ended up with a better road record (25-14-2) than home mark (20-17-4) this regular season.

Fatigue

Of course, the flip side of that is that you can only climb that mountain and defy those odds so many times.

It’s been a long season including the 2014 Olympics for the likes of Lundqvist, 32, so it’s not shocking that it sounded like he needed a break after Game 7:

That grind might just catch up to them in the next round or two.

Depth and Defense

source: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Chalk it up to bad luck or poor efforts, but it really is stunning that Rick Nash hasn’t scored a goal in 14 playoff games and only has two career playoff goals overall. His only point in the last round came on a secondary assist … on an empty-netter.

Still, to some extent, that shows a strength of the Rangers: other players can step up when someone is struggling. The Rangers don’t have anyone in the top 10 in playoff scoring despite 14 games played, but they have four in the top 30: Brad Richards (nine points) plus Martin St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot (all tied at eight). Guys like Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin bring different things to the table and even Brian Boyle had a big impact on Game 7 against Pittsburgh. When you have multiple weapons, it’s tough to negate all of them.

They also have the kind of blueliners who can negate opponents. Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal headline a defense that’s quietly formidable. The Rangers allowed 193 goals this season, which ranked fourth in the league.

Star Power

Still, you have to think that Nash will need to come through at some point. Aside from Lundqvist, the Rangers are a bit lacking in top-end talent, at least at the “star” level. P.K. Subban, Drew Doughty, Zdeno Chara and Duncan Keith are more prominent defensive names than McDonagh at this point in most circles and the Rangers boast players either a bit past their prime or about to enter those peak years.

Scoring by committee sounds great … until you see the things that a still-active player like Patrick Kane can do.

***

While the Rangers shouldn’t be taken lightly, they’d likely be underdogs against most – if not all – of the teams remaining in the playoffs. That might just be the way they like it, though.

  1. homieshome - May 14, 2014 at 4:21 AM

    I think that ridiculous schedule had alot to do with their bad play through games 2 & 3. they lost 4 as well but they at least looked better on offense. Nash needs to get going and we have Kreider back, i thin k they ccan get to the Cup, once they do anything can happen. But to the Penguins fans, it’s understandable to be disappointed but trust me, you do not want to clean house, way too much talent on your team to do that. It’s the coach, change the coach and then see how that goes.

    • bullwinkle88 - May 14, 2014 at 4:35 AM

      The Rangers can thank Madison Square Garden and the ridiculous number of events they have there for the awful schedule.

      And while they’re at it, they can also thank them for the worst ice in the league – for the same reason.

  2. withseidelinn - May 14, 2014 at 4:23 AM

    So what happens if Richards has a great post season and Nash doesn’t even score a goal? Does the buyout talk shift to him? I would find it hard to believe that the Rangers would want to buy out Brad Richards if he is a big part of their team going deep.

    • theblatche - May 14, 2014 at 6:56 AM

      I’m not a fan of that myself and I never was. Granted, he didnt look himself but it was a lockout yearm everyone saying he’s done, etc.. No, it would take a lot more than that to convince me. He does get paid a lot & It’s hard to build when you’re almost out of cap space but since Richards has been here, this team went from being a 1st round bummer to a 2nd-3rd round team.

      Richards 3 seasons with the Rangers= 3rd round twice and 2nd round once.

    • theblatche - May 14, 2014 at 6:56 AM

      I’m not a fan of that myself and I never was. Granted, he didnt look himself but it was a lockout year everyone saying he’s done, etc.. No, it would take a lot more than that to convince me. He does get paid a lot & It’s hard to build when you’re almost out of cap space but since Richards has been here, this team went from being a 1st round bummer to a 2nd-3rd round team.

      Richards 3 seasons with the Rangers= 3rd round twice and 2nd round once.

    • idonthavethebloodyoucrave - May 14, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      Richards could score 20 goals this playoff season and the Rangers would still be forced to buy him out.

      The guy is 34 and is a 6.6 Cap hit til 2020. It’s an awful awful contract that would leave any club vulnerable. It’s hard to justify 6.6 million dollars for a barely 20 goal scorer when the majority of evidence leans towards players getting less productive with age, not more.

    • isithockeyseasonyet - May 14, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      That’s gonna be fun to debate when the playoffs end, 34 and a 6.6 mil cap hit is steep but dude has returned from the dead…buy out Nash and go after Callahan?

    • bwayblueshirt - May 14, 2014 at 12:49 PM

      The problem isn’t his salary, it’s the years. Richards is locked up until his 40th birthday at $6.67 M a year. It doesn’t seem so bad now, but if he retires, or starts getting hurt, or just generally declines, that money becomes a huge problem, meaning that we can’t replace him via the free agency. Sather will probably keep him, but taking the long view, he really shouldn’t.

  3. sdelmonte - May 14, 2014 at 4:37 AM

    The good news is that whoever they play will be almost as tired. And have one day less off.

    Rangers-Bruins or Rangers-Canadiens…the Original Six live!

    • theblatche - May 14, 2014 at 7:07 AM

      Excellent point, hopefully they don’t play again until Sat, just to be completely rested. Two game 7’s took their toll on us in 2011-12. We should have won that year too..

      Now that we’ve just owned the State of Pennsylvania in 1 round after the other, lets have a great Original 6 match up, preferably with Montreal, or at least I hope so..

      • arrow43050 - May 14, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        I would be willing to bet my life fortune, admittedly not much of a fortune, that the Rangers will not play on Saturday. NBC and the NHL does NOT want the Rangers playing on Saturday because the Friday or Sunday night ratings are WAY more than they’d get on a Saturday afternoon and the difference between the Sunday and Saturday ratings is more in NY than anywhere else. It’s part of the reason the Rangers haven’t played a game on a Saturday against a non-Canadian team since March 1. I’d bet everything I have game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals will be on Friday May 16 and game 1 of the Western Conference Finals will be on Saturday May 17 if Ana-LA doesn’t go to a game 7. If Ana-LA goes to game 7, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Western Conference finals to start the day after game 7 on Saturday still, but I think it more likely it would start on Monday, giving the weekend off and starting the series after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals (Sunday night). If the league and NBC have their way, the Eastern Conference will be Fri, Sun, Wed, Fri, Sun, Tues, Thur and the Western Conference will be Sat, Mon, Thurs, Sat, Mon, Wed, Fri. If Ana-LA goes 7, they might still do that since there will be 2 days off between games 2 and 3 with that schedule.

      • henrik4dawin - May 14, 2014 at 6:22 PM

        Arrow– you can message me for the adress for that check. Your life fortunes are going to be padding my– and of course all the other commentators on PHT’s bank accounts!!

  4. jaybyrd99 - May 14, 2014 at 6:07 AM

    If I had told any rangers fans or any fan of hockey for that matter, that the team would win the first 2 rounds in 7 games each and Rick Nash would be goalless , I’d be committed ! That being said ,he somehow needs to chip in a few if the Rangers are to advance …..although stranger things have happened .

    • theblatche - May 14, 2014 at 7:01 AM

      I have hopes that he will. The one thing that keeps me optimistic in him is the way he’s looked, he’s not playing bad by any means. Then you have guys like Stepan who have scored, yet they look terrible. At times, he is downright dangerous to have on the ice. But thankfully, he’s the only one i can criticize, everybody else looks good.

    • theblatche - May 14, 2014 at 7:02 AM

      But yeah, I truly do believe Nash will get his goal soon.

  5. wranglerick - May 14, 2014 at 6:47 AM

    As an long time Islanders fan, I gotta tip my hat to the Rangers.

  6. mikedoc315 - May 14, 2014 at 7:02 AM

    As a Flyers fan I’ve gotta give credit where credit is due the Rangers beating the Penquins in 7 was a thing of beauty.

  7. the8man - May 14, 2014 at 7:06 AM

    They remind me of the Bruins from last year. Unheralded, gritty and never out of it. Speaking of which, if the Bruins win tonight, the Rangers will be their third consecutive Original 6 opponent.

    Go Bs!

  8. montrealbbr - May 14, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    They’ll get swept by the Habs.

    • 7mantel - May 14, 2014 at 9:49 AM

      Get past the Bruins before making such a bold statement !

      • montrealbbr - May 14, 2014 at 11:32 AM

        DId you see game 6? The series was over after that blowout win. Rask will continue to choke in big games and now that Pacioretty is going you cant think the Bruins have a chance in this one.

      • 7mantel - May 14, 2014 at 12:50 PM

        The Pen fans were singing the same tune after games 3 and 4 .

  9. rsl22 - May 14, 2014 at 8:51 AM

    Anyone who has watched the Bruins-Habs series knows at this point the winner of game 7 tonight will be playing for the Cup in a week. Rangers were kind enough to hand Pitt their walking papers, but the Bruins and Canadiens are much better teams and don’t have Fleury.

    • moarjam - May 14, 2014 at 9:30 AM

      yep that’s exactly how sports work!

    • avscup - May 14, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      If the game was played on paper perhaps you are correct. Lundquist could change everything. Many goalies have!

    • arrow43050 - May 14, 2014 at 12:47 PM

      I think you meant to say that neither Boston nor Montreal has Henrik Lundqvist.

    • jeff4476 - May 15, 2014 at 11:55 PM

      How are the Habs much better. They are if anything an identical twin to the Rangers. One more win thanks to Shootouts which in my opinion shouldn’t be awarded the same amount of points as a regulation or ot win. Less goals scored and slightly more goals allowed. Worse pp percentage and about even in pk. What edge do they have? They beat the Bruins? ok The Rangers just beat the team with the 2 super stars.. They are even.. should be fun.

  10. joey4id - May 14, 2014 at 9:09 AM

    Looking forward to another Original 6 match up.

  11. kastout11 - May 14, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    I think the Rangers can beat the Canadiens, but will not beat the Bruins. The problem with the Rangers is they will not have the edge in goaltending regardless of which team they play. They will get a well deserved and overdue extra day of rest. I just think Boston has too much for any team in the East. Boys, I think we are heading toward a Cup final rematch from last year.

    • arrow43050 - May 14, 2014 at 12:53 PM

      I’m curious, have you watched these playoffs? Lundqvist is won the Vezina Trophy 2 years ago and was nominated last year. Carey Price won the Olympics in February. Tukka Rask was nominated for the Vezina based on his goaltending from October through February (surely you can’t think he was great in the regular season in March and April). None of that matters now. Look at how the goalies are playing now and I tell you that Lundqvist takes a back seat to none of them.

  12. stepanup - May 14, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    I can’t help but just love this team. To overcome what they’ve faced, and knock off two of their biggest rivals in 7 games, it’s incredible. I questioned their heart and effort in the middle of the season, but those factors should never be questioned again. I’m all in. LETS GO RANGERS!

  13. doknyc - May 14, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    the way the king is playing, we def got a great chance… the hockey adage, “ride the hot goalie” is extemely applicable in our next series…

  14. nyeagles10 - May 14, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    Last time we won a cup, Richter made some game changing saves in that run. I see the same from the King so far, Lets keep it going

    • doknyc - May 14, 2014 at 11:23 AM

      that team was increible, richter, gravy, mess, leetch, beukeboom… hard to believe it was 20 years ago… would love to get another cup this year!

      • cofran2004 - May 15, 2014 at 11:31 AM

        20 years is definitely long enough of a drought. I wonder if Cally is wishing he’d just signed the damned contract at this point?

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