When the New York Rangers hit the ice for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, it will be game No. 103 for the team this season. After beating the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Finals in six games, the Rangers are getting some much-deserved rest while they wait to learn their opponents from the West.
No matter which team New York plays in the Finals, the rest they are receiving now is extremely important. They’ll need it after a long regular season and 20 grueling playoff games that held intensity in each matchup. The Finals start Wednesday June 4, which gives the Rangers five days between that day and their final game with Montreal.
Some might say the Rangers are playing so well that their momentum could be broken after so many days off, but the rest is more important. The Rangers will face either the Chicago Blackhawks or Los Angeles Kings, two of the fastest teams in the league. New York needs to be ready to match the speed of whichever team triumphs in the Western Conference Finals.
There’s also the travel aspect that will come into play, especially if it’s the Kings that win the west. All of New York’s playoff games thus far have been in close proximity, and the chance to rest will help when it comes to traveling.
The Rangers have showed a team effort to reach it this far in the playoffs. Players like Martin St. Louis and Dominic Moore have stepped up at big moments in the series, but its taken contributions from every player in the lineup. They’ll need to continue to play strong as a team, and the five days off will insure that everyone’s ready to go when the Final begins.
The Rangers don’t have any major injuries entering the Final, but over 100 games takes its toll on each player’s body. It’s something that every player has to deal with, but the Rangers getting more rest than the eventual West champs might make a big difference.
The extra rest also gives the team a chance to practice, particularly the power play. The Rangers will need to play solid special teams in order to hoist the cup and now have time to make sure their power play is good from the start of the Final.
Raphael Diaz will be back in the lineup for Game 1 while John Moore serves the last game of his suspension. Diaz has a hard slap-shot and plays the point on New York’s second power play unit, so it will be good for him to get some extra reps in practice. The Rangers showed in Game 6 of the East Finals how good they can be when everyone plays hard and contributes; they’ll be recharged after three long series against rival opponents.
The Rangers will be the underdog in the Final regardless of whether it’s the Kings or Blackhawks, so they must use the time off to their advantage.