New York Rangers in Prime Position for Deep Playoff Run


Jim McIsaac


The Rangers currently sit atop the Eastern Conference with 79 points, 9 more than the second place Bruins. (Jim McIsaac/Newsday/MCT)
The Rangers currently sit atop the Eastern Conference with 79 points, 9 more than the second place Bruins. (Jim McIsaac/Newsday/MCT)

The 2011-2012 New York Rangers, with more than half the hockey season over, sit atop the Eastern Conference.  Four of their players and their coach were named to the 2012 National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star Game. They beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 Winter Classic and achieved their best midseason start since the ’95–’96 season. This team is more than good. They are hungry.

Though the city saw a 54-year Stanley Cup drought come to an end in 1994, their last Eastern Conference Championship game came in 1997, with all-time great Wayne Gretzky. Just making the playoffs will likely not be enough of a victory for a team that has seen its fair share of qualifying seasons over the last fifteen years.

Having entered the playoffs as no better than the number five seed since 1999, the Rangers are itching to have a little home-ice advantage, and it’s certainly within reach. They lead the conference in points, and are nine points ahead of second place Boston. The Rangers have also dominated their division rivals, the Flyers (the Flyers are second in the Atlantic Division), having defeated them again on Feb. 5 for their fourth consecutive victory over them this season. They currently hold all tiebreakers, with less of their points coming from overtime than any other team in the east. Fordham College at Lincoln Center student Jessica Polins, FCLC ’14, though admittedly not a Rangers fan (she enjoys cheering for the Islanders), declared, “I’m definitely happy that they’re doing so well, the reason being that they’re from New York and they’re keeping Boston in second. I really wouldn’t care too much, but any New England team is worse than one from New York.”

The promise goes even beyond this regular-season’s statistics for these Rangers. The 1994 Stanley Cup Champion team and the 2012 version have a few things in common. Both teams had four players named to the All-Star Game, and in both games a Ranger was named MVP (Marian Gaborik in 2012, Mike Richter in 1994). The ’94 team was the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and this year’s Rangers are poised to finish that way. For Rangers fans, the similarities are all-too noticeable, and the consequences of another year of waiting are ominous, drawing concerns of another multi-decade drought.

The Rangers are currently led by new Captain Ryan Callahan. Callahan has led by example, posting 23 goals, matching his career high with 17 games to go. Sniper Marion Gaborik has rebounded from a very subpar 2010-2011 season by leading the team in points (49) and goals (27). Furthermore, the Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist, whose one of the hottest goaltenders in the game, guarding the net. Lundqvist has been nothing short of spectacular this year, as he’s tied for the league lead in save percentage (.939) and is second in goals against average (1.81).

The dominance is not without a weak spot, however. The Rangers are looking to tighten up what have been some serious power play woes. Their 16.7 percent success rate currently ranks 26th in the league, but they may look to new acquisition Casey Wellman to improve their success, as Wellman, an American Hockey League player to this point, was 6th in the AHL with nine power play goals. The Rangers may also look to add a top six forward before the February 27th trade deadline.

With the New York Giants bringing home the Lombardi Trophy, the Rangers have a shot at the unique distinction of bringing their home city its second major championship of the year. They have the top-notch play of a handful of All-Stars, and they have their division-rival’s number. They are number one on the ESPN NHL Power Rankings. There is good reason for great hope in New York this year. The Rangers just might take it all.