Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: 5 Reasons the New York Rangers Will Win It All
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The New York Rangers last won the Stanley Cup in 1994. That feels like a long, long time ago. Since then, the Yankees have won five World Series, the Giants have won two Super Bowls and the Devils have won (exasperated sigh) three Stanley Cups.
While it's not quite as bad as the 54 year drought that followed from 1940, it's not good. Fortunately, 1994 isn't easily chant-able.
But this Rangers team is different from the glorious 1994 version that marched to a Stanley Cup title behind Messier, Leetch, Richter and Matteau-Matteau-Matteau. This Rangers team is a different model than what has come before.
Instead of signing aging, ineffective veterans like Luc Robitaille, Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros, Theo Fleury, Pavel Bure, Bobby Holik or Brendan Shanahan, this team has been stocked with young, talented, hard-nosed players imbued with a team-first dynamic.
These Rangers look prepared to compete at the top of the NHL for years to come. But they're going to start by bringing home a Stanley Cup this year. Aside from rookie sensation Chris Kreider, whom I wrote about yesterday, here's the top five reasons why will be champs.
Lundqvist is putting this Stanley Cup run all on his shoulders.
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This slide shouldn't even need an explanation. There's a reason Henrik Lundqvist is a finalist for both the Vezina Trophy and the Hart Trophy. He's really, really good.
After a regular season in which he posted 39 wins, a .930 save percentage and a 1.97 goals against average, he's been even better in these playoffs posting a .945 save percentage with a 1.62 goals against average.
Lundqvist thrives in tournament play and led Sweden to a gold medal in the 2006 Turin Olympics. And he's foaming at the mouth to add a Stanley Cup to his resume. Just see his reaction to the late "goal" allowed against Ottawa in Game 6.
And aside from his stellar goaltending, the players in front of him love blocking shots.
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Brad Richards is pretty good during the regular season. In the playoffs, he's absolutely money. In 71 career playoff games, he has 68 points. In the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup run, he scored 12 goals, an incredible seven of which were game-winners. Understandably, he took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as well.
After a three-year hiatus from the postseason with Dallas, Richards is glad to be back in the spotlight. He gives the Rangers the edge they need on offense, and he is clutch in postseason play. He's like Eli Manning on skates.
He's pretty good. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.
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John Tortorella is a great head coach for the Rangers. Even though he's from Boston (we'll ignore that), you have to love his style.
He threw a water bottle at a Capitals fan and then tried to spear him with a hockey stick. He's got a heated rivalry with Philadelphia head coach Peter Laviolette. And he curses a blue streak, which anyone with an HBO subscription can attest to.
Tortorella lets his players work things out and all he demands is 100 percent effort. That's exactly what the Rangers have given him all season long and don't expect that to change.
Some of the Best Teams Have Been Eliminated
The Canucks were flat-out beaten by the Kings.
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In 2011-12, the Vancouver Canucks won their second consecutive Presidents Trophy as the NHL's best team in the regular season. And then were promptly dismissed from the playoffs in five games by the L.A. Kings.
The Penguins finally got Sidney Crosby healthy. Add that to Evgeni Malkin's stellar play, and Pittsburgh looked to be a formidable threat in the chase for Lord Stanley's Cup. They were bounced in six games by Philadelphia.
Tim Thomas was thinking about declining another invitation to the White House this year if his Bruins could successfully defend their Stanley Cup title. They dropped a tough seven-game series to the Capitals.
And the Cup winners from 2009-10? Oh yeah, Chicago got beat too. I didn't even know they played hockey in Arizona.
The Rangers Are the Best Team Remaining
Martin Brodeur was a young man the last time the Rangers won the Stanley Cup. Many years later, he still plays goalie.
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Since I'm predicting the Rangers will win the Stanley Cup, I'm obviously predicting they will make it past the Capitals in the current round. They are hungry for revenge on Washington after the Caps eliminated them from the last two playoff appearances in 2009 and 2011.
There are two main differences between those seasons and this. One, the Capitals are starting an inexperienced goaltender in Braden Holtby, and two, Alex Ovechkin is just not the same player that he was. The Rangers should take this series in five or six games.
That leaves the Devils or Flyers in their path to the finals. The Rangers swept the season series against Philadelphia, outscoring them 24-11. I wouldn't expect that dominance to change in the playoffs.
The Devils split the season series against the Rangers, but Henrik Lundqvist gives them a huge advantage over the rapidly aging Martin Brodeur. It's been a long time since the Rangers won their last Stanley Cup. And that was Brodeur's rookie year.
In the Western Conference, Nashville and St. Louis are the best teams left, and they are both losing their series so far. The Blues' stingy goaltending looks to be the biggest threat left in the playoffs, but they'll have to get past the Kings first.
The Rangers have a clear path to the Stanley Cup finals. And if they continue to play their hard-nosed brand of lunch-pail hockey, they should be toting home Lord Stanley's Cup.