Paint The Town [Ranger] Blue

NEW YORK, NY – We ‘re nearly three-quarters through the NHL season and the New York Rangers are the toast of the town, even if Jeremy Lin (2-3 in last 5) lives here. The Blueshirts have a healthy 7-point lead in the Eastern Conference and are just three points behind the Red Wings for the best record in the NHL. The Rangers have three games in hand over Detroit also.

Coming into the season I thought their playoff hopes were slimmer than Short Matt’s wallet. The team wasn’t much different from last year, so I thought they would finish somewhere between 7th and 12th in the conference. Now the Broadway Blues look set to make a run deep into the playoffs.

The Rangers’ success this season starts at the back. Henrik Lundqvist in net has been having a career year. The King leads the league in save percentage (.940) and is second in the league in goals against average (1.78). Henrik’s Achilles Heel in years past, an apparent weakness high on the glove-side, has not been a problem this season. Let’s hope Lundqvist can stay healthy and fresh down the stretch and into the playoffs.

In front of Lundqvist, the Rangers defense is firing on all cylinders. They’re blocking more shots than Dikembe Mutombo with Mickey Mouse hands. Del Zotto has come into his own after a couple of extended stays in Hartford last season. He is tied for second in the league in plus-minus and he’s fifth on the Rangers in points.

Up front Marion Gaborik is a scoring machine. He leads the team in goals and points. He’s played in every game so far this season, which is rare for the oft-injured Slovakian. The Rangers’ big off-season acquisition, Brad Richards has actually not been a total disaster for the Blueshirts this season. He hasn’t been a superstar, but the Rangers haven’t needed him to be. His respectable haul of 40 points is good for third on the Rangers.

Sloppy Seconds for Avery in Hartford

Its funny how the fans that were baying for the return of Sean Avery and demanding the head of John Tortorella earlier this season (myself included) are eerily silent now with the Rangers in first place and Avery picking up some sloppy seconds in Hartford. I like Sean Avery but its impossible to argue with Tortorella’s decision with the team playing the way they are.

There is some serious optimism in MSG these days. And not just the hope that Jeremy Lin doesn’t fizzle out as fast as he exploded onto the scene (last night’s abortion of a performance against the Heat won’t do Lin any good). The Rangers could make a serious run at the Stanley Cup. The Blueshirts know that the road to the finals will eventually go through Cheesy’s Bruins.

A Conference Final between the Rangers and Boston would be great. The Rangers have beaten the B’s twice so far this season and the teams have two more meetings before the playoffs. The last meeting – the last week of the season – could decide the top spot in the Eastern Conference. For the first time in awhile, I’m liking Rangers’ chances in the playoffs. But the team needs to stay healthy and focused and probably get a bit lucky if they are going to make a strong run at the Stanley Cup.

Come back for The Public Professor tomorrow.

 

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About Different Matt 264 Articles
Different Matt is our cunning Cornell grad/rugby player. "Diff" joined us just after the switch from being "Mets only" to an all-sports stop. He's a Yankee fan; thus he was "different." Aside from the Yanks, he's a diehard NY Giants, NY Rangers and NY Knicks fan. He also likes long walks on the beach and cappuccinos and nearly died in Las Vegas.