The new NHL season is set to begin in less than a week and the predictions are already rolling in. A popular pick to win it all this year is going to be the New York Rangers, and every bit of the hype surrounding this club is warranted.
The Rangers were a major surprise last season. They were expected to be a playoff contender, sure, but they ran the table in the Eastern Conference for much of the year, and captured the no. 1 seed for the playoffs. Their playoff run ended sooner than they would have liked, but it left sky high expectations for the new season.
This team is loaded top to bottom, and it starts with the reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist. There’s a reason he was a finalist for both the Vezina and Hart Trophies. He’s a monster between the pipes and the anchor for this club, no matter how many big names they add throughout the lineup.
Rick Nash is going to have the spotlight on him all year. The Rangers were finally able to acquire him, after months of trade rumors. He’ll likely join the top line of Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, which could give the Blueshirts the best top line in the entire league.
The depth up front, beyond their top three, is also impressive. You’ve got names like Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, and Carl Hagelin, along with super rookie Chris Kreider. There’s also some brawn in this lineup with the likes of Mike Rupp and Brian Boyle, among others.
The blue line is a quiet strength for this team. They have some of the best young defensemen in the league, with Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, Marc Staal, and Ryan McDonagh making up the top four in the defensive corps. That’s a terrific group with just that foursome alone.
There are really no excuses for the Rangers this year. They have the team in place to take home the Stanley Cup. On paper, they are the best team in the NHL. They do play in a tough division, though, so it won’t be a cakewalk. But expectations are high for this team, and anything less than Callahan hoisting the Cup in join is going to be unacceptable.