Welcome to Madison Square Garden, home of the 2014 World Champion New York Rangers!
It is most likely the Rangers will face off in the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers with home ice still up in the air.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have not been mathematically eliminated to jump up to second or third place in the Eastern Conference Metropolitan Division, but if that does occur it will only enhance the Rangers chances of advancing to round 2 quickly.
In my opinion the Rangers became a viable contender for the Cup when they acquired Marty St. Louis from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline. It is true he has not performed at his best since arriving in the “Big Apple” but as any bona fide NHL fan knows the playoffs are a different ball (puck?) game as compared to the regular season.
St. Louis joins veterans Rick Nash, Brad Richards and net minder Henrik Lundqvist in New York.
Speaking of Lundqvist, he has been acknowledged as one of the best goalies in the league and if he gets hot for a playoff run, the sky’s the limit.
The other 3 vets mentioned above will, of course, have to play at an elevated level as well if the Rangers are going to win the ultimate prize.
This could serve as a motivating factor for a group whose time is running out and a franchise that has captured the Cup just once since 1940 and that was in 1994 with Mark Messier.
If you are a believer in defense winning championships in professional sports the Rangers are the team for you. Towards the end of the season they ranked 4th in goals against at 2.4 per game and 5th on the penalty kill (85%).
Offensively they will need a lift from the likes of St. Louis, Nash and Richards to improve on their 2.7 goals scored per contest and 18.6% success on the power play.
With a couple of games remaining in the regular season the Rangers are 9-4 since March 14 including a 5 game winning streak from March 18 through March 26.
As far as the Stanley Cup Championship, the Rangers are currently a 20/1 shot in Las Vegas to accomplish this goal (pun intended).
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