Who Wins the 2014 Stanley Cup?

New York Rangers

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Why The Rangers Will Be The Sixth Seed In The Eastern Conference And Playoff Picks
Final part of the season preview...


Reason #1


Reason #1

Eastern Conference Preview

Western Conference Preview

 

I’ll make no bones about it, I’m extremely optimistic about the Rangers this season.  But I should also say that I’m usually a very pessimistic fan, so the fact that I’m actually optimistic makes me more optimistic, if that makes sense…

 

It would be a major stretch to expect the Blueshirts to surpass any of the Eastern Conference’s top five goliaths.  But behind Henrik Lundqvist and a generally improved team, the Rangers are next in line.  They’ll struggle at times and don’t expect them to coast to the sixth seed, but after their annual late season battle for the playoffs, the Rangers will be one of the teams left standing and squeak into the sixth slot because of their depth and superior goaltending.

They’ll be a playoff team for a number of reasons:

Henrik Lundqvist.  Despite all the player movement of the last few years, the Rangers have had one key constant: one of the best goalies in the league.  No matter how bad the Blueshirts have looked at times, they’ve ended up in the playoffs or on the doorstep each season.  The primary reason is that even though many tried-and-true principles have become extinct or radically changed since the lockout, the old logic that having a good goalie can win a game on any night, get you to the playoffs, and take you deep into the playoffs has never been truer.  Just look at what Jaroslav Halak did for Montreal last year.  Sure some teams are good enough to compensate for inexperienced and lesser quality goalies as Chicago and Philadelphia did last season.  But imagine either of those teams with a guy like Lundqvist.  No matter how many bad contracts the Rangers have had and no matter how many poor draft picks they’ve made, they’ve still been in the playoff hunt every year since the lockout.  Many of the Rangers’ Achilles heals from pre-lockout days remain the same in terms of roster construction, but the big difference now is that the Rangers have an elite goalie who masks their other shortcomings.  As long as Lundqvist is in his prime, the Rangers will be fighting for a playoff spot.

Secondary Scoring.  One of the biggest problems for the Rangers last season was a complete inability to generate offense outside of Marian Gaborik.  This season secondary scoring will go from being a team weakness to a strength.  The Rangers have three legitimate scoring lines and the fourth line should even be able to pitch in from time to time as well.  The Rangers obviously know what they have in Marian Gaborik, but he could have an even bigger year with the addition of Alex Frolov.  Frolov had his problems in Los Angeles, but his talent is evident and he is clearly here with something to prove.  They’ll start the year with Erik Christensen, obviously not a true No. 1 center, but serviceable enough in the short term.  Christensen isn’t close to the level of Gaborik and Frolov, but he’s fast enough to keep up with them and has good enough offensive instincts to not hold them back.  The second line is also intriguing.  Both Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky are 20-goal scorers, but the real question is what the Rangers will get from Artem Anisimov.  Everyone around the league is expecting big things from the Russian center this season, and he provided them with plenty of reassurance in the preseason.  He may well end up between Gaborik and Frolov before long but no matter what; he’s ready to bring the team some much-needed offensive punch.  In year two, the training wheels will come flying off, and Anisimov will make his linemates, whoever they may be, better.  But it doesn’t stop there.  The third line of Sean Avery – Derek Stepan – Ruslan Fedotenko might be capable of producing just as much offense as the so-called second line.  Fedotenko is probably more of a 15-goal scorer now and Avery hovers right around a dozen, but the playmaking ability of Stepan will be a boon to the entire Rangers offense.  And none of that takes into account what will happen when Chris Drury returns, or even Vinny Prospal, the team’s second leading scorer from last season (though his return could be deep into the season).  Drury is a good bet to improve on last season’s point totals and when he returns the Rangers will have 10 very, very good top nine forwards.  A guy like Sean Avery might get bumped to the fourth line, where he’d team up with Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle to form a quick, agitating, physical group.  When the Rangers need to rotate enforcer Derek Boogaard in and out of the lineup, it’s not like it will be at the sacrifice of a ton of offense.  The biggest change for the Rangers this year is that they actually have more than one guy they can count on to score this season.

Youth.  It’s really easy to point out all Glen Sather’s bone-headed signings of over-the-hill, overpriced veterans over his tenure in New York.  But the reality is that the Rangers only have five players over the age of 28 right now (two more when Drury and Prospal return).  That’s really not bad, and not at all outside the norm of the NHL’s 29 other teams.  The young Rangers have a great chance to really build on last season.  The team finished a single point outside the playoffs last season, the rookie year for two key contributors in Michael Del Zotto and Artem Anisimov.  Both look poised to make huge strides forward this season and should be more than capable of buoying the Rangers.  But that’s not even including players like Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Marc Staal, all still under age 25 and capable of much more as well.  And of course, one of the biggest reasons for hope this season is rookie sensation Derek Stepan.  While I still maintain that in the long run he’d be better off with a full season in Hartford, he’s made it impossible for the Rangers to keep him off their roster.  There will be growing pains, but Stepan is clearly the No. 1 center of the future.  He has already shown the ability to keep up with Gaborik and Frolov, a big enough challenge on its own, and is now out to prove that he not only made the team, but that he’ll be an integral part of its success.  The Rangers also have two offensive defensemen that look ready to take over the power play and may put up gaudy point totals this season in Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy.  And none of this makes mention of the Rangers’ two other NHL-ready defensemen, Ryan McDonagh and Mike Sauer.  McDonagh will start off in Hartford, but he may be back before long.  He certainly has the look of a top-four defenseman at worst down the road. 

Depth on D.  The truth is that the Rangers are a little shaky on the blue line.  But what they lack in top talent, they make up for in depth.  Many teams around the league would be crippled by an injury to any of their starting defensemen, but the Rangers can swap in Steve Eminger or McDonagh and be just fine.  They don’t have the top six of the Maple Leafs, Penguins, Flyers, etc. but the Rangers’ top eight is as good as anyone’s. The starting defense is an area of concern as the Rangers lack shutdown defenders outside of Marc Staal.  Del Zotto and Gilroy are very strong on the offensive side, but have a lot of work to do at actually stopping the opponent.  Michal Rozsival is incredibly inconsistent, he’ll go a week as the best defenseman on the ice and then you’ll forget about him for a month.  A lot of his problems stem from injuries that have hindered his game, but he’s not the same player he once was.  Dan Girardi struggled a bit last season, but is generally the team’s other constant besides Staal.  But despite all the question marks and shortcomings, the incredible depth on D will be a huge help. 

 

 

 

 

 

Western Conference playoff picks

Vancouver over St. Louis

Los Angeles over San Jose

Detroit over Calgary

Chicago over Phoenix

 

Vancouver over Los Angeles

Detroit over Chicago

 

Vancouver over Detroit

 

 

Eastern Conference playoff picks

Washington over Atlanta

New Jersey over Buffalo

Boston over New York

Philadelphia over Pittsburgh

 

Washington over Philadelphia

New Jersey over Boston

 

Washington over New Jersey

 

 

Stanley Cup

Vancouver over Washington

 

 

 

 

 

Awards

Rocket Richard – Alex Ovechkin

Hart Memorial – Ovechkin

Vezina – Ilya Bryzgalov

Calder Memorial – Jordan Eberle

Norris Memorial – Nicklas Lidstrom

Selke – Jonathan Toews

Jack Adams – Craig Ramsay

Posted by Kevin Baumer | October 9, 2010 at 12:11 pm
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New York Rangers VS Carolina Hurricanes
Sunday, December 21, 2014

  1 2 3 OT F
Rangers 1 0 0 - 1
Hurricanes 0 0 0 - 0








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