July 1, 2007 marked a momentous occasion for New York Ranger fans everywhere. Free-agent centers Chris Drury and Scott Gomez were both signed to the Rangers, which sparked clever mottos among fans such as “Drury + Gomez = Stanley Cup.” But is it really that simple? Were Drury and Gomez simply the 2 missing links that were keeping the New York Rangers away from the holy grail of hockey?
It has been 14 long and disappointing years since the New York Rangers last won the Stanley Cup, but true blue fans have new hope for the upcoming post-season. Most recently, the Rangers have gone 11-0-4 in their last 15 games, making them one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Many sports fans claim that this hot streak is a result of the recent line changes made by Coach Tom Renney. Others claim the sudden success is due to the fact that Gomez and Drury’s contracts are finally paying off. Gomez, the former New Jersey Devil, has had more than 10 points in the last 11 games while Drury, a former Sabre, has won many face-offs and has scored 22 goals this season, making him tied with Brendan Shanahan for the team lead.
Thanks to Drury, Gomez, and other dream team players such as Avery, Shanahan, Dawes, and Lundqvist, the Rangers currently hold the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference, qualifying them for a bid in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In this spot, the Rangers would face the No. 3 Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Hurricanes have bounced back remarkably after losing several key players to both injuries and trades over the last few months, but although the ‘Canes have improved on their penalty kill, their five game winning streak ended in Buffalo last Friday night. Both the Rangers and the Hurricanes are extremely formidable opponents. With an even 2-2 record in their last 4 meetings with each other, the first round of the playoffs could be anybody’s game.
The New York Rangers could also potentially meet the Montréal Canadiens or the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Rangers have proven time and time again that they are fully capable of beating No. 1 New Jersey, but they have struggled against the No. 2 Canadiens throughout the 2007-2008 regular season. Nevertheless, the Rangers have greatly improved since their last meeting with the Canadiens in mid-February. The Rangers seem to have more depth than Montréal, and should never be counted out because of their Prince-between-the-pipes, Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist quickly proved his worth when he burst onto the New York hockey scene in 2005. Since then, Lundqvist has continued to progress and develop his game. Lundqvist’s current GAA and Save Percentage may be less than impressive, but come playoff time the numbers don’t seem to matter. Despite his fair share of highs and lows this season, the man behind the mask is currently extremely hot following big wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils earlier this week. Lundqvist will have to stay confident and keep playing at his best in order to ride this hot streak into the playoffs.
While there are few concerns about New York’s playoff chances at this point, the Blueshirts will need to stay away from debilitating injuries at all costs in the coming weeks. Keeping all players healthy and in the lineup will be an essential task for the Rangers organization.
Team veterans such as Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan will also need step up come playoff time. Shanny and Jagr are both Stanley Cup winners who know what it takes to get to the championship. If the New York Rangers want to have any chance of winning the Stanley Cup this year, they will need the pair of vets to get them ready and keep them focused throughout the end of the season and all rounds of the 2008 Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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