New York Rangers: 5 Bold Predictions for the Second Half of the 2011-12 Season
The New York Rangers are currently 31-12-5 with 67 points in 48 games played–good for first in the Eastern Conference as of Jan. 31. The Rangers have just 34 games remaining for the regular season (19 home, 15 away).
The good news for the Rangers is that their record home and away is nearly identical: 15-5-2 and 16-7-3, respectively.
What this means is that the Rangers have demonstrated that they can be a dominating force both on home ice and on the road.
The Rangers have a long road remaining until they reach the postseason and as we all know, a lot can happen in 34 games.
Let's take a look at five predictions for the remainder of the New York Rangers' 2011-2012 season. Some will no doubt be controversial, but are still entirely possible.
1. Marian Gaborik Scores 50 Goals
Marian Gaborik has never scored 50 goals in a single season, but this season it will happen. Gaborik has 25 goals in 48 games played this season and with 36 games remaining, it should be no problem for the Slovakian sniper.
His impressive hat trick at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game will help set the tone for the remainder of this season and give him the confidence he needs to bury the puck in the net on a routine basis.
The closest Gaborik has ever come to scoring 50 goals in a single season was 42: once for the Minnesota Wild in 2007-2008 and again for the Rangers in 2009-2010.
2. Rangers Will Lead the League in Shutout Wins
The New York Rangers led the league in shutout victories for the 2010-2011 season. Even better, it was all thanks to Henrik Lundqvist.
This season, the New York Rangers will lead the league in shutout victories yet again.
The Rangers currently have seven shutout wins this season: five from Henrik Lundqvist and two from Martin Biron.
The Rangers are second in the league this season with 1.95 goals-against average, with the St. Louis Blues in first place (1.93 GAA).
Expect the Rangers to have more than 10 shutout wins this season.
3. Rangers Will Make a Big Trade by Feb. 27 Deadline
The New York Rangers will need to acquire a star defenseman or forward by the Feb. 27 trade deadline if they want to make a deep run in the postseason and win the Stanley Cup.
Yes, the Rangers are playing their best hockey since their last Stanley Cup victory of 1994, but there is room for improvement across the board.
The Rangers are an abysmal 25th in the league on the powerplay, with only a 14.1 percent conversion rate.
Adding a star forward or offensive-defenseman from the trade market will solidify the Rangers dominance on the ice.
It's impossible to say who the Rangers will acquire, but it's inevitable that they will make a move–and a big one.
For speculation as to who the Rangers will deal by the deadline, take a look at my top-five picks. Who the Rangers acquire remains a mystery. It may not come cheap, but if it leads to a Stanley Cup Championship then it will be worth it.
4. Rangers Will Win 50 Regular Season Games
The New York Rangers have won 31 games in 48 games played this season.
But this season, the Rangers will win 50 regular season games, a mark they haven't seen since 1993-1994 when the Rangers won 52 games for 112 points and brought home a Stanley Cup Championship for the first time since 1940.
Barring any major collapse, the Rangers have shown that this is the season they can return to elite status in the NHL.
With Martin Biron delivering consistent gameplay as a backup goalie, Henrik Lundqvist is arguably in the best condition of his entire NHL career. Lundqvist can stay fresh and healthy and deliver the deep postseason run the Rangers need while Biron supports the Rangers throughout the regular season.
5. Rangers Will Win the Stanley Cup
Mark Messier was the last New York Rangers captain to raise the Stanley Cup back in 1994–a memory for Rangers fans that is quickly approaching the 20-year mark.
But this year, the Rangers will break the cycle and return as Stanley Cup champions again for the fifth time in NHL history.
I've been criticized by some for jumping to early conclusions with my recent article where I explored the very real possibility that this could be the Rangers' year.
"Too soon," many Rangers fans said.
Well, the Rangers have not played a first half that was this impressive since the NHL lockout of 2004-2005.
Make that since 1994.
While I understand every NHL season is a marathon and not a sprint, the Rangers have demonstrated with great consistency that they can be winners both on home ice and on the road.
The Rangers have fought some of the best teams in the NHL this season and walked away victorious: Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and the list goes on.
With all-star offensive players, a nearly unstoppable defense and a goaltending duo that nearly every NHL team should be jealous of, the Rangers will win the Stanley Cup in 2012.
One final note: Although the Rangers powerplay is in desperate need of repair, the Boston Bruins finished last season 20th in the league with a 16.2 percent powerplay conversion rate and still managed to win the Stanley Cup.