Rangers Playing With Something To Prove
It’s hard to make an observation on a team when the season just started few weeks ago.
Still, there’s something different about this Rangers team in the 11 games they played after a 5-3 victory over the Oilers last night at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers have become an offensive machine, and they are playing with a sense of urgency. Those are the two takeaways from this start so far.
It’s early to make too much out of it, but the early signs are encouraging for a team that was forgotten when it comes to handicapping Stanley Cup picks.
The Rangers feel they have the team to win the Cup. Their defense has been effective, and for better or for worse, Henrik Lundqvist is a guy the Rangers can rely on to win games as their goaltender.
It’s been an open season for Lundqvist by his critics in recent years for his inability to lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup. The reality is the Rangers haven’t gotten much out of their big scorers come playoff time, which is why the team has fallen short of their Stanley Cup goal.
The Rangers have tried everything. They developed from within. They made acquisitions such as Marian Gaborik and Rick Nash. The problem comes in the spring when they all of sudden can’t score.
Maybe this year is different. If Mats Zuccarello can be healthy all season, he could be the difference maker in the playoffs. The Rangers sure could have used him two years ago against the Lightning in the Eastern Conference final. The Rangers are hoping Kevin Hayes and free agent rookie Jimmy Vesey could be the difference makers. In Vesey’s case, the Rangers paid so much to win the bidding of his service.
It's hard to Nash has it in him to be the guy in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He hasn’t done much in the playoffs in his career.
For the Rangers to do well, they need Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Zuccarello, Hayes and Vesey to play like the Rangers’ best players come playoff time when it matters.
Now is the time for these guys to step up. They are playing in the prime of their careers. If they can’t step up, when will they? There are only so many opportunities to get it done. It feels like the Rangers have wasted several prime years as it is.
The Rangers should have won a Stanley Cup with this nucleus already. They are a talented team that has speed, size and grit to get it done. For whatever reason, it hasn’t happened.
Sooner or later, it’s going to be fair to wonder if these guys have it in them to win the Stanley Cup. They have been underwhelming in big spots during the second season. They know it.
The Rangers get a pass for last year. They were fatigued from playing so many Stanley Cup playoff games the last few years that it caught up to them. They played like a team that wanted to get their season over with last year against the Penguins in the Eastern Conference semifinals. There’s a reason it’s hard to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.
They have had enough time off to get their legs fresh. There are no more excuses. The opportunities are only going to get fewer each passing year as the players start getting older.
The Rangers are playing with a sense of urgency that has not been seen in years. They are playing with a team that is on a mission to win after last year’s disappointing season. It has showed in their start so far.
The team has been quick to get to the loose pucks, and they have worked well in winning faceoffs. They are playing like they are well-coached. They also playing like they don’t want to be pushed around.
This has been the theme since Opening Night against the Islanders.
Maybe playing with a sense of urgency is what this team needs. There have been times when the Rangers have been too passive for their own good. They look at times bored playing through regular season games at times.
It’s a different buzz around the Rangers this year.
Playing well in the regular season seems nice. Proving to make a point on the ice each game sounds good.
Only thing that matters is if the Rangers can translate that to a Stanley Cup championship.
That remains to be seen.