It’s tough to recover the season after being the second-best team in the playoffs, but the Blueshirts have won 11 of their past 12 games, including Wednesday night against Anaheim. And New York has done it after a rough start to 2014-15.
Traditionally, the teams that have lost the Stanley Cup final have often struggled in their next campaign, which is understandable given the grind and letdown of coming so close the prior summer.
But the New York Rangers have won 11 of their past 12 games, including Wednesday night in Anaheim against an NHL-leading Ducks squad. It’s almost miraculous for a team that has already withstood injuries to top players such as Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Dan Boyle. The recent hot streak is the team’s best since 1993-94 – a year of note, as any Rangers fan will tell you – and it has catapulted the Blueshirts into the Eastern Conference’s top wild card slot. Given that New York has two games in hand on Washington, but trails the Capitals by only a point, things look even sunnier.
So how are they doing it? Really, the Rangers are just playing solid all-around hockey. New York ranks third in offense, seventh in goals-against, while special teams are just a smidge outside the top-10 each.
The team has weathered the off-season losses of players such as Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle and Benoit Pouliot better than anticipated, with J.T. Miller stepping up, Kevin Klein having a career season and Henrik Lundqvist being his usual franchise self in net.
Which begs the question: If you play in the East, do you really want to see the Rangers come playoff time? They’re still a deep team and even though New York’s possession numbers are down a bit, Lundqvist can make up for that on any given night.
Looking back to the end of last year’s Stanley Cup final, the Rangers were hurt by a feckless power play (and the fact the L.A. Kings were a steamroller, but still…) that shoehorned Brad Richards into a position on the point. With Richards in Chicago now, that won’t be an issue, nor will his declining quickness overall – and speed is something Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau lauded New York for after his team fell to the Rangers.
It’s never easy for a team to get to the Cup final, especially one year after losing in it, but it has been done and some of those teams have even gone on to get revenge by hoisting the chalice the second time around. Structurally, the Rangers should have other teams on high alert right now, because they’re looking dangerous.