by Patrick Hoffman on 04/11/12 at 01:35 PM ET
I was probably being too optimistic but nevertheless, I believe it is a good take on the Rangers this season:
To win the Stanley Cup, hockey teams must win a lot of games, pull together and play the right way, sacrifice their bodies and be willing to do anything to make things happen.
This season, no team in the NHL embodied the above mentioned things more than the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts have won the most games in regulation this season and they did it in pretty amazing fashion.
This season, the Blueshirts adopted a team-first philosophy and utilized it to a ‘T’. The team has gone out on a nightly basis and have worked their tails off in forechecking, blocking shots, killing penalties, getting timely goal scoring from their top players while also getting great goaltending from starter Henrik Lundqvist all the way to the top of the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
Leading the way for the Blueshirts is their team captain Ryan Callahan. Callahan plays the game the right way on a nightly basis and epitomizes the Rangers’ style like no other player.
Callahan goes out and hits, forechecks, blocks shots, kills penalties, plays on the power play and contributes offensively (29g-25a). He also scores big goals, as he has 9 game-winners this season.
Offensively, the Rangers have also benefited from the timely scoring and point-producing of both Marian Gaborik and nine-year man Brad Richards. After struggling with injuries and inconsistency last season, Gaborik is back to be the goal-scoring machine he first was with the Rangers two seasons ago and leads the club with 41 goals and 76 points.
Gaborik also added a defensive element to his game this season. Frequently, Gaborik could be found backchecking, breaking up plays in the defensive zone and working hard in the corners to win puck battles.
His current linemate, Brad Richards, has had a solid first season on Broadway. While he may not be putting up the high numbers that fans expected from him, Richards has still managed to score over 20 goals this season and put up over 60 points.
Richards is also a player that has come through when the team has needed him the most. Richards is tied for the team lead with 9 game-winning goals and it his ability to come through in big spots that could end up paying dividends for the Blueshirts in the playoffs.
Other forwards that have worked extremely hard this season include the likes of Brian Boyle, Brad Prust, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, and Artem Anisimov. These forwards play well on both sides of the puck while guys like Stepan, Hagelin and Anisimov have also contributed their fair share of offense this season.
When it comes to hard work on the blue line, one needs to look no further than Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. With Marc Staal missing much of the first half of the season, Girardi became the team’s go-to guy on defense as he plays big minutes (second in the league in minutes played), blocks a ton of shots, breaks-up a ton of passes and contributes offense when he can (5g-24a).
McDonagh has also been rock-solid on defense for the Blueshirts this season. He is arguably the Rangers’ second-best defenseman and is one that can play in all situations and at just 22 years of age, is only in the beginning of what appears to be a very promising NHL career.
In between the pipes, the Blueshirts might just have the hardest working goaltender in the NHL when it comes to stopping pucks. Lundqvist uses his strength and athletic ability to not only stop the first shot, but the second and third ones as well, which has allowed him to have stats like these: 39-17-5, 1.93 GAA, .931 save percentage, and 8 shutouts.
There is no doubt that in the regular season, the Blueshirts outworked many of their opponents. If the team can continue to play within themselves and within their team-first philosophy in the postseason, winning the Cup could become a reality for the New York Rangers this spring.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.