The Rangers have become a perennial Cup contender

Thanks to an amazing core and recent trade deadline acquisitions, the Rangers have become one of the top contenders in the NHL for the Stanley Cup.

By Andrew Graziano

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After their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 20 years, the New York Rangers emerged as a team to beat in the NHL after their 2013-14 campaign.

So far in the 2014-15 season, the Rangers have created a new identity for themselves; a quick, puck-moving team who can beat you on the rush, and when things look bleak, goaltending will bail them out.

When Henrik Lundqvist went down with a strained blood vessel in his neck, all hope seemed lost for the Blueshirts. The best player on their roster was unavailable for the foreseeable future, which left many in a panic, wondering where the Rangers would end up without the former Vezina-winner.

If it weren’t for Cam Talbot, this team would not be where they are right now. Currently, they sit in second place with 85 points in the Metropolitan Division. They are only 2 points behind the New York Islanders, but because the Rangers have fewer games played, they have a great chance to grab the top spot.

Talbot has stepped in Henrik’s absence and has simply been sensational. He is 9-2-3 since the injury, and his GAA on the season is a 2.43, along with a save percentage of .917%. Better than some starting goalies in the league.

Although offense has bailed Cam out on some nights, there have been games where he was called on to make some big saves, and he did just that. Take Wednesday night for example against the Detroit Red Wings. Jimmy Howard outduels Cam Talbot in Detroit (DET 2 v. NYR 1 OT)” href=”https://foreverblueshirts.com/jimmy-howard-outduels-cam-talbot-in-detroit-det-2-v-nyr-1-ot/” target=”_blank”>It was a duel between him and Jimmy Howard, and Talbot held his own. The biggest save coming with about 12 seconds left, which was an athletic grab with his glove to keep the game tied and send it into overtime to get his team the point.

Yandle had a successful debut with NYR (Bruce Bennet / Getty)

Yandle had a successful debut with NYR (Bruce Bennet / Getty)

The thing that makes the Rangers even scarier was the acquisition of Keith Yandle. Sunday before the trade deadline, general manager Glen Sather went out and traded away Anthony Duclair, John Moore, and a 2016 first-round pick to get the star defenseman who is only 28 years old.

His reasoning for trading away Duclair has been the play of Kevin Hayes, who essentially took the place of Duclair, making it easier for Sather to let go of him.

In his first two games with the Rangers, Yandle has already shown his brilliance. His vision on the ice is not something most defensemen have, his ability to make tape-to-tape passes might be the best in the league, and his skating is tremendous. You have already started to see the difference on the power-play, as Yandle has been able to control the pace of play and create chances for his new teammates.

With a defensive core of Yandle, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal, the Rangers now have arguably one of the best defenses in the league, counting Lundqvist.

Their offensive depth has also improved. Sather also was able to get former San Jose Sharks forward James Sheppard for Lee Stempniak. Sheppard is a gritty fourth line player who can play either the wing or center, and will play a pivotal role in the Rangers lineup. Taking the spot of Tanner Glass, the Blueshirts will have a good fourth line heading into the playoffs, which we all know is very important to success (Dominic Moore scored the game-winning goal in game six of the Eastern Conference Final).

With these additions, and the players the Rangers have now, they have sent shockwaves across the league, signaling that they are ready to win, and ready to do it now.

They currently have 10 players who are 26-years old or younger, so they have youth, and they also have prospects within the organization, such as Brady Skjei, Conor Allen, and Oscar Lindberg.

Their combination of youth and skill has made the Rangers a Cup contender for years to come, whether they will win it all is the main question, but it’s safe to say that they have a pretty good shot.