Henrik Lundqvist, goaltender of the New York Rangers
The New York Rangers are proving they are a force to be reckoned with, winning at home, on the road and in front of thousands of fans. So it should be no surprise that the Rangers are currently sitting at the top of the league with 56 points in 39 games played.
There are countless reasons why the Rangers are having an exceptional year—but step inside as we take a look at what I believe are the Top 5 keys to the New York Rangers' success so far this season.
Last year, Marian Gaborik was less than stellar on the ice with 22 goals. The New York Rangers needed another offensive threat, and when Brad Richards was made available to the market, Rangers head coach John Tortorella and General Manager Glen Sather jumped at the opportunity.
Acquiring Brad Richards would become one of the Rangers' best moves in years, and it is already paying dividends. Rangers fans had plenty of reason to be wary of the acquisition—another star who wore the No. 19 as a New York Ranger didn't exactly work out (Scott Gomez).
But Richards is the real deal, scoring 15 goals with 16 assists for 31 points this season. He's a great playmaker, and has the veteran vision on the ice and in the locker room. His mentoring of Michael Del Zotto is also proving to be invaluable for the young Rangers core.
The only thing we can hope is that Brad Richards will unite with John Tortorella again for another Stanley Cup victory.
Ryan Callahan, 26th New York Rangers captain
Any New York Rangers fan has witnessed the dramatic rise of Ryan Callahan in the Rangers post-lockout era.
Ryan Callahan was called up from the Rangers AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack (now the Connecticut Whale) on December 1, 2006. He would battle through a number of minor injuries but came into his own for the 2008-09 season. That year, Callahan scored 22 goals (third on the team) and accumulated 40 points (fifth on the team).
This season, Callahan was chosen as the 26th New York Rangers captain, and for good reason. His grinding gameplay, lead-by-example personality and the ability to be a consistent offensive contributor is something we haven't seen since the days of Jaromir Jagr as the Rangers' 24th captain. And don't underestimate the value of Callahan as a captain the entire Rangers team can believe in, something that was questionable at times with Chris Drury.
Callahan currently has 14 goals, 17 assists, and 31 points so far this season. With a deep run in the playoffs seeming inevitable, there's no reason to believe Callahan won't make this his best year yet.
Members of the GAS line celebrate: Gaborik, Anisimov, Stepan
When this season started, we all expected Brad Richards to be paired with Marian Gaborik. On paper, it was a recipe for success: two of the league's top offensive threats united.
But that didn't work for Rangers head coach John Tortorella, and instead with the injury of Wojtek Wolski early on, he promoted Derek Stepan to the first line.
That line became Marian Gaborik, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan (GAS). And the chemistry almost instantaneously developed, leading to a surge in scoring for the New York Rangers.
The GAS line, as it affectionately became known, is vital to the Rangers' scoring prowess.
And it seems undeniable that the better Marian Gaborik plays, Brad Richards follows and vice versa.
Artem Anisimov has flourished under this line, with seven goals and 15 assists. Marian Gaborik is having a banner year, and barring any injuries it should be his best yet. Gaborik has 23 goals and 11 assists. And Derek Stepan is beating the sophomore slump with nine goals and 18 assists.
New York Rangers defensemen Michael Del Zotto (L) and Dan Girardi (R)
It's tough to choose just one star defenseman for the New York Rangers, because honestly they are firing on all cylinders.
Michael Del Zotto led the NHL for defenseman in the month of December as a +25. This has been a breakthrough year for Del Zotto, who was forced to spend an extended period of last season with the Rangers AHL affiliate, the Connecticut Whale. He has since developed his game and is delivering great results.
Dan Girardi also has stepped up to be a leader for the Rangers defensive line in the absence of Marc Staal. His ice time skyrocketed this season and for good reason; he will stop at nothing to block shots and be an extremely effective power play killer.
Other notables include the rise of Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman, an early acquisition this season who has adapted very well to the Rangers philosophy dictated by head coach John Tortorella.
With the return of Marc Staal, the Rangers have outstanding defensive depth. No matter how well the Rangers put pucks in the net, a consistent, dominating defense is integral to winning, and therefore it should not be underestimated.
New York Rangers goaltenders Martin Biron (L) and Henrik Lundqvist (R)
Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron combine to form one of the best goaltending duos in the NHL, without question.
Lundqvist is having a stellar year and is remaining strong and healthy with the fantastic play of Biron. For the first time in years, the Rangers have a capable, consistent backup goaltender that head coach John Tortorella doesn't even consider a backup: "I have 1A and 1B."
Lundqvist is 18-7-4 with a .939 save percentage. Biron is 8-2-0 with .922 save percentage.
The better Biron plays, the deeper we can run in the postseason with a strong Lundqvist. Biron is very comfortable as a backup goaltender and is not looking to take the lead away from Lundqvist. He knows his role and value as a New York Ranger.
And the Vezina Trophy finalist Lundqvist is well aware that he needs to do everything he can to bring the Stanley Cup home again to the New York Rangers.
If he can do that, look for his legacy to be cemented in Rangers history forever.
Honorable mention: New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella