By Dominic Lancella on April 12, 2014
With the Stanley Cup Playoffs just days away, the New York Rangers must wait to learn their first-round opponent, but it wasn’t easy getting here after a grueling road trip to start the season. New York played its first nine games on the road and went 3-6-0. Most of those losses were not close, as the Rangers were outscored 33-15 in the nine-game swing.
Let’s look at five reasons why New York was able to turn their season around.
Sure, most people will say that Rick Nash is the Rangers’ best scorer, but what’s more important is that this season, he hasn’t had to be. Nash has scored some timely goals this season, but hasn’t produced many down the stretch. Many of his goals this season came in an 11-game span when he scored 11 goals. Nash only has seven goals in his last 27 games, but it hasn’t hurt the team and that’s scary to think about if you’re the rest of the league.
What a great story Cam Talbot has had this season. Also, what a luxury it has been for the Rangers to be able to confidently rest Henrik Lundqvist, knowing they had a more than capable backup to steal a few wins. He’s won more than a few; in 20 games, Talbot has a 12-6 record and has impressive numbers to go with it. His .940 save percentage is sparkling, and his 1.67 goals-against average isn’t too shabby either.
Brad Richards has come a long way since being a healthy scratch in the Rangers’ final two playoff games against the Boston Bruins last spring. The most notable difference this year has been restoring his confidence. It’s allowed him to be more decisive on the puck and especially on the power play. Last season, Richards struggled to run the point on New York’s first power play unit. Richards has almost doubled his goal total from last season.
It’s hard to say where the Rangers might be this season without Ryan McDonaugh. After a splendid Olympic performance, McDonaugh has gotten better every game and has only been slowed down by a shoulder injury that has kept him out the last four games. McDonaugh’s 14 goals are the most by a Ranger defensemen in a single season since Brian Leetch scored 21 during the 2000-01 season.
“Zuc” comes first on the list because honestly, he’s the biggest surprise. Who would have predicted six months ago that Mats Zuccarello would lead this team in points? Most people would have heard that and either laughed, or assumed that New York was going nowhere fast this season. His 59 points lead the team, and his playmaking ability sticks out. He has made his teammates better and has great vision that allows him to make superb setup passes.
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