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NHL Playoffs 2012: 4 Reasons NY Rangers Are Still Favorites in the East

Cat ZambitoContributor IApril 26, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: 4 Reasons NY Rangers Are Still Favorites in the East

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    It was announced Wednesday that New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist is one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, which Wikipedia defines as: "Awarded annually to the National Hockey League's goaltender who is djudged to be the best at this position. At the end of each season, the thirty NHL general managers vote to determine the winner."

    This marks the fourth time in Lundqvist's seven years in the NHL and with the New York Rangers organization that he has been nominated, but has yet to win it.

    If he keeps playing like he has been though, this very well may be the year he takes the trophy home.

    Time and time again this season both the Rangers coaching staff and teammates have referred to Lundqvist as "the backbone of their team." That is quite an honor and one that he most definitely deserves.

    This season, Lundqvist has achieved a number of career bests. He has a career-high of 39 wins, a career-low of 1.97 goals against average and a career-best .930 save percentage.

    Most importantly, Lundqvist proves his importance to his team by recognizing that it is a group effort and is quoted by the Blueshirts United from earlier today stating,

    "I think all of my teammates here should feel good about it because this is all about teamwork. I had a good year, but without them I couldn't have done this."

    Lundqvist's understanding that his success is dependent upon the rest of the his team and vice versa is yet another essential reason as to why the Rangers continue to be the favorite in the Eastern Conference. 

Their Ability to Bounce Back

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    The New York Rangers have shown time and time again throughout the regular season how terrific they are at bouncing back from a tough loss.

    Things might look bleak on the outside, but head coach John Tortorella makes sure that his team takes each and every game one at a time, allowing it to not focus on any losses or wins, but to keep plugging ahead and keep its eye on the prize.

    Thankfully this same mentality and ability has carried through with them to the postseason.

    Many believed that after suffering a 2-0 Game 5 shutout loss on home ice to the Senators last Saturday night, that we had seen the end of them. But once again the Rangers came out strong and won Game 6 3-2 on the road (which is another area of strength for them that has carried over to the playoffs).

    Tortorella switched lines up like a mad banshee Monday night, obviously willing to do whatever it took to get some goals scored for his team, and it worked.

    The Rangers' endless faith and trust in their coach and themselves has given them the belief they need to continue on well into the postseason.

    And even when the odds are against them, they always seem to find a way back on top, which they proved Monday night in Ottawa.

The Odds Are in Their Favor

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    A lot of favorable comparisons have been made between the 1994 Stanley Cup winning Rangers and the current Rangers squad.

    In a Washington Post article written earlier today, yet another similarity was discussed between the championship Rangers and the present ones:

    "They haven’t hosted a Game 7 since 1994 when they had back-to-back winner-take-all games in the Eastern Conference finals and Stanley Cup finals. That was also the last time New York was the No. 1 seed."

    Another interesting stat that was mentioned in that same article is that, 

    "The Senators are 0-4 in Game 7s, including three road losses. They haven’t been in one since losing at Toronto in the first round of the 2004 playoffs.".

    John Tortorella also commented in a pre-game interview going into Game 6 Monday night that he has a good feeling about this Rangers team and that he just feels in his gut is going to go very far.

    Sounds pretty similar to Mark Messier's confidence and promise going into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 1993-1994 against the New Jersey Devils that they would win the game.

    Messier met with the Rangers beat writers and media prior to that fateful game, so that the morning of Game 6 when everyone woke up, there was a picture of him on the cover of most New York papers guaranteeing the win.

    And, not only did he make good on his guarantee, but he also scored a hat trick and an assist in that game.

    I have to agree with Tortorella that there is just something about this current Rangers team that makes you want to believe in them and (although Torts didn't say this), to also believe that they can once again bring Lord Stanley's Cup back to New York City).

    In a Yahoo Sports.com article written by Jake Emen on April 10th, he also compared the two teams, stating:

    "The 1993-94 New York Rangers finished with a 52-24-8 record with 112 points (in 84 games), good enough to win the Atlantic Division, lock up the number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and take home the Presidents' Trophy.  The 2011-2012 New York Rangers finished with a 51-24-7 record with 109 points, eerily similar to the '94 team's mark. They are the number 1 seed in the East, but fell short of the Presidents' Trophy by two points."

John Tortorella

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    I don't think enough can be said about how positive of a force Rangers head coach John Tortorella is for his team.

    He provides the right amount of intensity and ferocity that the Blueshirts need, which was quite the opposite of the Rangers prior head coach Tom Renney (who, while a great man, just didn't have the spunk to lead a team like New York to victory).

    Tortorella demands excellence out of his team. It was clear that he would focus on the areas that needed improvement going into that crucial Game 6 (mainly the power play), and the Rangers scored two power play goals that night.

    This is not by accident.

    Nor is it by accident that Tortorella is almost a mirror-image in defensive style and fierceness to the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion Rangers head coach "Iron" Mike Keenan.

    With both coaches, you have to earn your place in the lineup, which gives a player a sense of accomplishment and reward for work well done.

    Both Keenan and Tortorella's coaching styles are known for being boisterous and ferocious to play for, but both coaches know how to win.

    An added bonus with Tortorella is that prior to becoming the Rangers head coach, he had already won a Stanley Cup Championship with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, so he has first-hand knowledge about what is needed to go all the way.

They Have the King

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    It was announced Wednesday that New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist is one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, which is:

    "awarded annually to the National Hockey League's goaltender who is djudged to be the best at this position. At the end of each season, the thirty NHL general managers vote to determine the winner." (wikipedia.com)

    This marks the fourth time in Lundqvist's seven years in the NHL and with the New York Rangers organization that he has been nominated, but has yet to win it.

    If he keeps playing like he has been though, this very well may be the year he takes the trophy home.

    Time and time again this season both the Rangers coaching staff and teammates have referred to Lundqvist as "the backbone of their team." That is quite an honor and one that he most definitely deserves.

    This season, Lundqvist has achieved a number of career bests. He has a career-high of 39 wins, a career-low of 1.97 goals against average and a career-best .930 save percentage.

    Most importantly, Lundqvist proves his importance to his team by recognizing that it is a group effort and is quoted by the Blueshirts United from earlier today stating,

    "I think all of my teammates here should feel good about it because this is all about teamwork. I had a good year, but without them I couldn't have done this."

    Lundqvist's understanding that his success is dependent upon the rest of the his team and vice versa is yet another essential reason as to why the Rangers continue to be the favorite in the Eastern Conference. 

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