In recent years, the New York Rangers have been one of those teams that everybody expects great things from, while having trouble actually delivering on that promise.
The Rangers certainly have impressive depth, boasting a lineup that includes big guns like Rick Nash and Brad Richards, and arguably the best goaltender in the league in Henrik Lundqvist. But despite their powerful roster, they have been unable to make a real dent in the playoffs in recent years, having been eliminated in the second round in 2013.
But there’s no denying their potential, and the team certainly has what it takes to be among the league’s best this season, if all goes according to plan.
Odds To Win Stanley Cup: 25/1
Key #1: Lundqvist continues to dominate
When you have one of the NHL’s best goaltenders in your crease, you start every game with an edge over the competition. Lundqvist has certainly proved himself to be among the NHL’s elite puckstoppers in recent years, and he gives the Rangers a chance to win every night and a definite edge in any playoff series. At age 31, the Swede still has lots of quality years ahead of him, and he must continue to prove he is still at the top of his game if the Rangers are to have a chance at hoisting the Cup for the first time since 1994. A Vezina Trophy worthy season would go a long way towards accomplishing that.
Key #2: More production from their stars
The Rangers didn’t make moves like bringing in Rick Nash and Mike Richards to be a mediocre team. They did it to make a splash and cement their status as an elite team. That goal remains the same this year, and to get there both those high priced players will need to add a little more value.
Neither Nash nor Richards produced at a point a game clip last season, but they are both quite capable of reaching that mark and have done so in the past. They both have terrific seasons behind them, but the Rangers are paying for the present and future, not the past. Both players still have prime years ahead of them and they need to reward the Rangers faith by proving they can still pour pucks into the net with the best of them.
Key #3: Continued development from young guns
The Rangers have come to rely on the impressive skill of some of their youngest players. 23-year-old Derek Stepan was the team’s leading scorer last year, coming within a hairs breadth of a point-a-game season. On the blue line, youngsters like Michael Del Zotto and Ryan McDonagh continue to prove they are among the NHL’s best young defenseman. The Rangers need those contributions to continue apace this year. Paired with strong veteran efforts, that would spell trouble for a lot of teams in the Eastern Conference.
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