The New York Rangers appear to be one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup if and when the 2012 NHL lockout ends. As the top seed in the Eastern Conference last season, the New York Rangers proved they are an elite team. This offseason, they only got better by trading for Rick Nash. Immediately, “Stanley Cup or bust” talk began.
The New York Rangers will almost assuredly make the playoffs. Their defense-first system will likely prevent a catastrophic disappointment, even in the event of injury. Henrik Lundqvist could be the best goaltender in hockey. The defense is young, deep and talented. With the addition of some offense, the Rangers could have the best top-six in the league. The Rangers could very well be the most complete team in hockey and Stanley Cup chatter is unsurprising.
But are the Rangers built for a deep playoff run? Have they earned all the Stanley Cup talk?
The Rangers have been unable to stay healthy and energized for a full season under head coach John Tortorella. His shot-blocking system and two-way commitment may have led to fatigue down the stretch in each his seasons in New York. During last year’s playoffs in particular, an exhausted and injured Rangers team limped through the first two rounds in dramatic, seven-game fashion before being eliminated in the Eastern Conference Final.
Despite facing the three lowest seeds in the conference, the Rangers fell short of a Stanley Cup appearance. The New York Rangers may not even be the best team in the Atlantic Division as the Pittsburgh Penguins surged once Sidney Crosby returned and got within a single point of the top seed.
All in all, it seems a bit premature to call the Rangers’ 2012-13 campaign a bust if they cannot win the Stanley Cup. It may take some time for their three offensive superstars to learn to play together. The Rangers need to prove they can be efficient over an entire season and not burn out for the playoffs.
The New York Rangers will be great this season, but their style of play may not translate effectively to playoff success. The delay caused by the NHL lockout might benefit the Rangers and help them stay fresh through the end of the season, but it could also hurt them. Ultimately, it’s far too early to be talking about the Stanley Cup for anyone.