A Whole New Season for the Rangers
Last year, the New York Rangers surprised many by making it to the Stanley Cup Final, after even being written off before the first round even started. The Rangers defeated the Flyers and Penguins in 7 games during the first two rounds of the playoffs, and defeated the Montreal Canadiens in 6 games to win the Eastern Conference title. They then lost in 5 to the Los Angeles Kings, although the series was much closer than the series length may have indicated. The 2014-15 Rangers are much different, and maybe even better.
Last year, the Rangers relied mainly on defense and goaltending along with clutch goalscoring to make it to the Final. This season, the Rangers have risen to 3rd in goals for per game, averaging 3.11 goals per game, to go along with the 7th fewest goals given up per game, coming in at 2.35 against per game. Their powerplay is also much improved, coming in at 10th in the NHL. While the team started off slowly this season, it really wasn’t much of a surprise as injuries hampered the team, especially with Stepan, McDonagh and Dan Boyle all missing 10+ games. Henrik Lundqvist started off slowly as well, but he has turned it on lately and has been the NHL’s best goaltender since December began. So while many people expected a Stanley Cup hangover for this Rangers team, this season so far has been anything but that so far.
So, through analysis and simply watching the team play, it is not crazy to conclude that this year’s Rangers team is better than the one that won the Eastern Conference title last season. If the strong performances keep coming, they will continue to surge up the NHL standings and potentially challenge the Penguins for first in the Metropolitan Division, even though I still find it unlikely with Pittsburgh’s talent and firepower. This team is more talented and has better chemistry than last year’s, and I would not be surprised if we see another run to the Eastern Conference Final or maybe even the Stanley Cup Final for the Rangers this season.