After going scoreless in two straight games and failing to score a goal on 30 straight power play opportunities, it appeared as though the New York Rangers were on their way out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A few games later, the Rangers are the hottest team remaining in the playoffs and have secured themselves a spot in the Eastern Conference finals.
Solid goaltending is one of the most crucial parts of a championship team and Henrik Lundqvist has been absolutely spectacular, anchoring the Rangers in their improbable comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In three straight wins, Lundqvist has been the best player on the ice giving up no more than one goal and saving over thirty shots. It’s no surprise the Rangers are winning on the back on Lundqvist considering all eight wins this postseason have come with the Rangers giving up no more than two goals. If the Rangers wind up hoisting the Stanley Cup this year, it’s almost guaranteed that a Conn Smythe for Lundqvist will accompany it.
Goaltending has been the most dominant aspect of the Rangers game. However, the second biggest reason for their success is the disappearance of Sidney Crosby. It is difficult to know with certainty how much of Crosby’s lack of production had to do with the Rangers and how much of it had to do with his own execution.
What is known with certainty is that the Rangers did everything in their power to keep Crosby rattled. Whether it was the drubbing he took on the boards or water being sprayed in the face, the Rangers made it clear that they were not going to let one player beat them. Even though no other team is as dependent on one player as the Penguins are with Crosby, having the ability to throw a team’s best player off their game will disrupt any team’s offensive production.
The Rangers will face more and different challenges in these playoffs, but they have proven against the Penguins that they are capable of overcoming those challenges in different ways. Defeating the Penguins has also given the Rangers one of the most important and inexplicable aspects of winning a championship and that is momentum.
The Rangers now know that they have a goalie who will win them games and no matter how bad they may appear to be, they have it within them to bounce back. Whether it’s scoring for the first time in three games or scoring a power play goal for the first time in 30 attempts, there is very little that can still faze the Rangers.
As if all of this weren’t enough, the presence of Martin St. Louis may be the final piece of the Rangers’ championship run, and his greatest contribution may not even be on the ice. Going through the tragedy that St. Louis has endured with the passing of his mother gives the Rangers another opportunity to grow together. It gives them something to galvanize around and an emotional boost that can be the extra motivation they may need to reach the promised land.