The New York Rangers come-from-behind win against the Columbus Blue Jackets only further proved one should never count this team out.As the Blueshirts get ready for the second half of the season, whether or not the team can continue to light up the scoreboard — and not Henrik Lundqvist — will be the biggest factor in determining if this team can make a deep run come playoff time.
Ever since the scoring zones were expanded following the 2004-05 lockout, the NHL has invited a more offense-minded and fast-paced game. The days of teams winning the Stanley Cup by relying on low-scoring wins the way the New Jersey Devils did during the Martin Brodeur era are long gone.
If the NHL still had smaller scoring zones, the Rangers probably would have won at least two cups this decade.
Yes, they did win the Eastern Conference in 2014 by relying on a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 victories, but that was in part because Lundqvist was spectacular that postseason and even he ran out of gas against the Los Angeles Kings in the final that year.
The most recent cup winners: the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Kings did have solid net-mining, but those teams also had the ability to score four or more goals night in and night out.
The Rangers made wise decisions this past offseason to make their roster younger and capable of being a fast skating team. Landing college star Jimmy Vesey was the icing on the cake. However, some of the team’s under-the-radar moves have been paying off.
Michael Grabner has 19 goals on the year, which includes a hat trick and game-winning goal in last Saturday’s thrilling win. Mika Zibanejad, who was acquired for fan favorite Derick Brassard, was having a solid year before suffering a broken fibula last November.
Zibanejad will hopefully be back in the next few weeks and will play an important role in the playoff push for the Blueshirts. It also helps that Rick Nash has shown signs of his old self. If he can stay healthy the rest of the year that will be a huge plus.
It is understandable why Rangers fans would see the play of Lundqvist as the team’s most pressing issue.
While he has shown plenty signs of the player known as “The King,” there have also been games where he struggled to the point he had to get pulled. It is also imperative to make sure Antti Raanta gets his share of starts in goal to make sure Lundqvist is rested enough for a good playoff run, the same way Cam Talbot was able to be.
However, the best way the Rangers can take the pressure off Lundqvist is to score goals. He’ll probably still give up some soft goals, but having faith in his teammates to get those goals back will help him maintain his confidence. This confidence has been backed in several games this season where the Rangers fell behind early and then came back to win; like the game at home against the Boston Bruins last October.
The Rangers fell behind 2-0 in the first period and both goals Lundqvist gave up should have been stopped. Yet, as Lundqvist pulled it together, the Rangers offense woke up and rallied for a 5-2 win.
They just need to make sure that they can keep winning those high scoring affairs.
If the Rangers want to make a solid playoff run and compete with teams like the Penguins, they’ll have to be able to win those 4-3 and 5-4 games.