The Double edged sword of winning, maybe the Rangers need to cool down
The recent 6 game winning streak is really hurting some teams in their division; especially themselves.
Under the current playoff system the Rangers are better off finishing 7th, and in the first wild card spot. If they did that they would face Montreal in the first round. The Canadiens have been in a tail spin and are at present, a team with many flaws. If they got past Montreal, they would then play the Ottawa – Boston winner. Win that series, they move on to play EITHER Washington, Pittsburgh, or Columbus in all likelihood.
Conceding the Capitals first place, if the Rangers finish second or third, they face Pittsburgh or Columbus, then would probably face the Caps in the second round. Those two rounds, if they got through them, would take a heavy toll. Chances are they would be 6-7 games with several overtimes. One needs to look no further then last year to see how Brooklyn made sure they didn’t pass the Rangers in order to face Florida then juggernaut Pittsburgh. We know how that turned out.
On The Other Hand…
Having won 6 of the last 7 has vaulted the Rangers into 5th in the entire NHL. This has to make management look real hard at making moves to bolster the team, specifically the defense, in the next two weeks. The top NHL insiders are split on whether the Rangers will make big moves or small ones. My guess is they will try to make one big move and another depth move or two.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has mentioned several times how important it is to have “money” available at the trade deadline. Right now the Rangers are projected to have just under 10 million available. Meaning they could add a 10 mil per year player, or players totally that sum, without subtracting. I am quite sure they have that space available for a reason. If you look at last year’s team, this team has been much better and more consistent.
Presently, they have 3 lines playing better than any one line from last years team. Their defense is slightly better due to the additions of Brady Skjei and Nick Holden and the subtraction of Dan Boyle. An upgrade on the back line would give them a fair amount of depth at both forward and defense.
A Little History
While the Capitals look like a runaway train right now, injuries can be the great equalizer. Two years ago, from January through the first round of the playoffs, the Rangers were winning approximately 80% of their games. 4 out of every 5.
They were as dominant as I have ever seen a Ranger team. Then one by one all of their defensemen, except Dan Boyle, got hurt. By the time they were in the middle of the conference finals, they were playing with 5 injured defensemen. Two (Staal and Girardi) required surgery after the season, and one (McDonagh) had a broken foot that only required a walking boot for four weeks. Keith Yandle incurred a shoulder injury, that he played with, in the first round against the Penquins, and Kevin Klein broke his hand right before the regular season ended. He came back during the second round, but never played near the level he performed at before the injury.
Another thing to consider is the Caps have never seem to get over the hump and make it to the finals. That is something that they will always be reminded of, and something that will be difficult get past until, or if they ever do.
A Final Word on Goaltenders
On a different note, has anyone noticed the struggles of a great majority of the goaltenders that played in the World Cup of Hockey? Henrik Lundqvist has turned his season around recently, and is now on a great run. But, until then, it had been a subpar campaign for one of the best goalies in the sport.
Now Team Canada’s Carey Price has been struggling mightily since the Christmas break. Team USA’s Ben Bishop and Corey Schneider are arguably having their worst seasons. Of course Jon Quick of the Kings, injured his groin in game 1 of the regular season.
Shifting over to Team Czech Republic’s Petr Mrazek, who has been below average, which is better than his World Cup teammate, Ondrej Pavelec, who was shipped to the minors at the end of training camp. Speaking of the minors, Jaro Halak had a super run for the Team Europe squad, but then had his worst year before being sent to AHL Bridgeport. And, while Russia’s Sergei Bobrovsky has been excellent, Semyon Varlamov and Andrei Vasilevsky have been inconsistent at best.
In my opinion, this is not a coincidence. What do you think?