Mar
28

Everything’s going according to plan for playoff bound Rangers

March 28, 2017, by

Alain Vigneault and co. would never publicly admit their glee about how their team’s playoff picture is unfolding, but things are progressing quite nicely for the Blueshirts.

Start with the obvious – the rejiggered playoff format will allow New York to open against the Atlantic Division winner (likely either Montreal or Ottawa), then square off with a second Atlantic foe should they advance, while the juggernaut Penguins, Capitals and Blue Jackets beat the heck out of each other. Those Atlantic foes shouldn’t be taken lightly, but advancing through that half of the bracket looks infinitely easier than the Metro murderer’s row.

In their slot as the Eastern Conference’s first wild card, the Blueshirts will be the road team for the duration of their playoff run. Normally that’s cause for concern, but not so much for a club that’s threatening the single-season road wins record and also possesses perhaps the best Game 7 goalie in league history.

Regarding that goalie – Henrik Lundqvist has had his ups and downs this year, but he’s been locked in for a couple months now. Vigneault acknowledged that Lundqvist could have returned earlier if the Rangers had anything on the line, but without that pressure Lundqvist enjoyed a bit of late-season rest that could be a huge factor as yet another late-spring run unfolds.

Lundqvist isn’t the only player who should benefit from some time to recharge. Defensemen Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein have been warriors for several seasons but have been breaking down with increasing frequency. Whether they’re actually deserving of positions in the starting six or not is debatable – but they should at least be in position to put their best foot forward with a few weeks of rest to gear up for the marathon ahead.

And if they’re not up to the task, the Blueshirts possess several other valid options on the blueline that could be rotated into the lineup. Trade deadline pickup Brendan Smith has been rock solid since his arrival, and spare D-men Adam Clendening and Steven Kampfer have both proven they’re capable of playing regular minutes when Vigneault wants to give them a chance.

That depth is also reflected up front, where the Rangers are once again fully healthy and able to roll four solid lines without glaring weakness. The team’s best 12 attackers are relatively obvious, but it’s a luxury that the likes of Brandon Pirri, Matt Puempel and Tanner Glass are available should the team need a little help on the power play or some added snarl.

Another added plus is that there’s no shortage of motivation for this group. Last year’s playoff disappointment is still a fresh memory, and the recent struggles – especially on home ice – are clearly eating at the team. The recent slump should serve as a reminder that nothing but the team’s best collective effort will be enough in the postseason.

On an individual basis, several long-time heroes have something to prove this time around – starting with Lundqvist in net and also including the beleaguered veteran defensemen, slumping Derek Stepan, and frequent playoff goat, Rick Nash.

All of this may make it sound like the Rangers will coast their way to the Cup and that is assuredly not the case based on the team’s play over the last few weeks. But New York has tried to tweak the recipe in subtle ways each year to no avail, so this year’s plan includes some unique new wrinkles that offer their own reasons for optimism.

Will the easier path, rested soldiers, added depth and bonus motivation actually pay dividends? We’ll just have to wait and see.

"Everything's going according to plan for playoff bound Rangers", 5 out of 5 based on 12 ratings.

25 comments

  1. Go F Yourself says:

    This team ain’t making it out of the first round. They’re going to beat Carey Price? They can’t even beat Thomas Greiss.

  2. pas44 says:

    Come On Kev! There You Go Getting Me This Psyched Up Man!

    LGR!!!

    • Kevin Baumer says:

      Haha I know, that’s taboo for Ranger coverage. I’ll find something to complain about for next week don’t worry

  3. amy says:

    hopefully tonight the rangers will clinch a spot by beating the sharks and getting help then the fun begins do you play the habs with Carey Price or the Ottawa Sens where you know Brass wants a little insentive to beat his former team we will see

    • Stevem says:

      Being that the Canes lost to Detroit in OT, Isles lost to the Preds in regulation, but Tampa beat the Hawks in OT.. I believe we just need to get to OT tonight to clinch a spot.. my math could be wrong but I think that’s the scenario. Sharks have lost 6 straight. Let’s do this tonight

      • sherrane says:

        You are correct. The Islanders can tie the Rangers in points, but the Rangers now own the ROW tiebreaker. This is the same reason the Rangers clinch with 1 point tonight (they have the ROW tie breaker as well as the head-to-head vs Tampa).

        • rglv says:

          I think the goal is not only clinch PO, but also secure the seventh seed. For that Rangers still need 3 points out of possible 12. Rangers have 43 ROW, Boston – 37. Boston has 7 games left, and in theory can tie or surpass Rangers in ROW column.

          • sherrane says:

            I was actually going to post this info just now. The Rangers will clinch with a win in regulation or OT tonight. That would give the Rangers 98 points with 44 ROW.

            Bruins currently have 84 points with 37 ROW and 7 games remaining. The best they can do is 98 points and 44 ROW. They will finish below the Rangers because of the head-to-head between the two teams (Rangers went 3-0 against Boston this season).

  4. Walt says:

    Going into the PO’s, and Stepan finally hitting the back of the net, along with Nash, well let’s all see what happens. Sorry folks, this team goes as far as the defense takes us, let’s all hope they play well………..

    • Peter says:

      No Walt, I respectfully disagree. Thus team goes as far as team defense, including the defensive work of the forwards, takes them. We know the weaknesses of their blue liners. The real key is what the forwards do to help the defenders, both by putting the puck in the net and by playing defense.

      • Lunch Bag says:

        Totally agree. Everyone keeps talking about the D but every team needs the forwards to help out and that’s even more the case with the Rangers. I think Zibanijad could use some lessons in defense cause I see him standing there at times when he coulda done something to help out.

  5. pony says:

    Only hope is to go up 2 road games 1st round.

  6. SalMerc says:

    First 2 rounds of POs promise to be on the road. Lucky for us we are a better road team. Need to get some life into the Hayes/JT/Grabner line in a hurry, or we are going nowhere real quick. Our defense is probably going to lay an egg at least one game a round so we will need all lines hitting on all cylinders. If we fail to score 3 goals, we are toast. I fear a guy like Pacioretty, who always seems to come up with a big goal against us with his speed and determination if we play Montreal.

    If we play Ottawa, I would hate to think that Brassard has a point to prove that we made a huge mistake in trading him away. He plays with passion that few in blue can match. Let’s hope this is the year that Nash carries the team on his back.

    Look for AV to do the unthinkable on defense – sit Klein or Girardi if the deserve it.

  7. Leatherneck says:

    This route is actually very interesting because if the Rangers play Montreal, it is not a guaranteed series win. Since I have been watching Rangers hockey, yes Dryden era, lesser extent Rogie Vachoun…(I remembered him more as a LA King) the Rangers have had a tough time beating Montreal.
    In 79 after winning the 1st game in Montreal we lost the SCF’s 4 straight to those guys, in my opinion had it been any other team we would have won the Cup.
    I don’t believe it will be smooth sailing for the Rangers as I think we have a better shot at beating the Capitals rather than Montreal. The team to beat is going to be the Penguins. They are my Cup favorites

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      Pens are pretty banged up. Need to get healthy in order to get through the east. Will be interesting to see where they stand in 2 weeks.

    • Dave says:

      So their performance in 1979 is a predictor for 2017?

      • Leatherneck says:

        That is not what I am saying Dave, What I am saying is just because it looks easier that is not the case. Montreal has our number. Odds of us beating them are lesser not greater. They just have our number….Can’t explain it….just is what it is

    • Andy says:

      We beat them in 1996 and 2014. I agree they have had our number in the regular season. But all bets are off come playoffs. In 2014 everyone was worried Henrik could not win in Montreal. But he did. If history can predict the future, my bigger concern is last time Therrien was fired and replaced mid season the Penns went on to win the cup in 2009. Not saying it will happen again…but the new season will start soon…

    • Tom O Hawk says:

      Totally agree. Everyone keeps talking about the D but every team needs the forwards to help out and that’s even more the case with the Rangers. I think Zibanijad could use some lessons in defense cause I see him standing there at times when he coulda done something to help out.

    • Tom O Hawk says:

      The real reason the Rangers lost that series in 79 was cause in game 2 we scored early, maybe to go up 2-0 and my friend jumped up and yelled “were gonna sweep them”. Well we all know what happened then. We lost that game and the next 3. All he had to do was shut up and we woulda won the cup. Lol

  8. sherrane says:

    Another factor why the Rangers are in an excellent position is that they would be leading the Atlantic had they been in that division.

    Rangers 96 points (76 GP)
    Canadiens 93 points (75 GP)
    Senators 90 points (74 GP)

    If we remove the loser point, the Rangers have 92 points while Montreal and Ottawa have 84 and 82 points respectively.

    If we go with a 3-point game, the Rangers have 135 points while Montreal and Ottawa have 123 and 122 respectively.

  9. Hockey Sittoo says:

    I personally wasn’t a fan of Hank sitting out so long. If it’s true, as some say, he wasn’t really hurt, then I really think it was a mistake. Hopefully they have enough games left to get him going but their schedule is incredibly tough. That being said, if he does get locked in and is playing like he did in February I like our chances. And that includes against Price who also had his struggles this season. I could see us in the ECF – if they make it that far no reason why they can’t pull an LA from a few years ago and raise the Cup. A pipe dream? Maybe, but I still like our team and its balance and skill (no Glass in the lineup helps…).

  10. Reenavipul says:

    Now AV has to get with the program has just to rotate the squad the rest of the way for this to work.

    Fat chance.