Much like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Metropolitan Division rival New York Rangers are all in to push for a Stanley Cup run on Broadway.
The Rangers had golden opportunities to capitalize on winning a Cup in 2015 (losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final to Tampa Bay) and 2014 by losing in the Cup Final to the Los Angeles Kings. Division title nor President Trophy banners in Madison Square Garden will satisfy Ranger fans any longer.
It’s quite possible the Rangers have enough firepower to make a serious run once again. Their team’s core is still in its prime to a level where their experience matches skill.
Let’s start with the defensive side. To protect superstar goalie Henrik Lundvqist, the Rangers have their top six defensive players back. Captain Ryan McDonagh is still 26 years old and is rapidly becoming an effective leader. Keith Yandle (coming from last year’s deadline deal with Arizona) proved to be an offensive catalyst, producing 11 points in just 21 regular season games. Danny Boyle is on the final year of his contract at 39-years-old but he still is effective. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi are stalwarts overall.
I’m picking Jesper Fast as a player under the radar to look for this season. The 23-year-old right winger Swedish native excelled in the playoffs by notching 3 goals and 3 assists after a lukewarm regular season. Fast is learning under the wing of other forwards like Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan, and Derick Brassard.
Left Winger Rick Nash emerged in last year’s playoffs with 14 points through 19 games. Expect him to carry the load this year but also carry immense pressure to come up in the clutch.
Rangers fans can be as critical as Flyers fans when it comes to their team. Head coach Alain Vigneault headed a talented group in Vancouver from the 2007 season until 2013. They reached the Stanley Cup Final summit in 2011 only to fall to Boston. From there, the window closed on Vancouver and Vigneault’s tenure. New York may not be forgiving if they reach less than the 2nd round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.