Well Rangers fans, it's that magical time of the year where visions of Stanley Cup raising is all in our heads. Being a Rangers fan, it also brings in memeories of very good teams that have fallen short of the ultimate prize. The BIG question is where does this team fit in the drive for 5? Is this the year for the 5th Cup in Rangers history? Was Eric Staal the missing piece? Can Keith Yandle recapture his All-Star staus he had with the Coyotes with more ice time replacing Ryan McDonagh? Did the Rangers make themselves stronger for a long playoff run by not going all out during the regular season like last season that wore them all down deep into the playoffs? Can the Rangers make it 3 times in a row knocking the Penguins out of the playoffs? SO many questions and we will see an answer soon. The Rangers start the 1st round on the road for the 1st time in years and it could be the best thing that happens for them.
With Captain Ryan McDonagh out with reported by the coach as broken bone in his hand, Keith Yandle will finally get a chance to showcase what he can bring to the Rangers backline with 1st pairing icetime. reading all reports on SNYRANGERSBLOG.COM, it says how much Yandle is ready for the playoffs and how much fun he is having on this Rangers team. With Yandle, Eric Staal, and fellow defenseman Dan Boyle all knowing this could be the last playoffs in New York Rangers uniforms, they wil be motivated to leave it all on the ice not only to win, but to earn new contracts. ALthough it would seem as if this is clearly Dan Boyle last attempt for the Cup for his career, wierd thisngs sometimes happen. The Rangers last season went pretty much injury free compared to this season which is god and bad. It isn't the best to have injuries and leads to players not being on the same page with new linemates every week, but overall the players are stronger and more rested from time off of the long NHL grind of a season. It seems amazing, but by reading their quotes in atricles and hearing them speak, this team seems more confident than they did last year. There were times in the year that I thought Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was "playing Possum". He seemed to get a line going well and for no reason break them up compared to last year when he played set lines and when Mats Zuccarello went down to injury, that key line went ineffective in Game 7 of the Conference Final and the Rangers went out quietly 0-2 on home ice which shocked everyone, even with all the injuries.
SO as these playoffs start, this years playoff version of the Rangers seem to have more depth that can fill in when the injuries occur. Yandle fills in for McDonagh and Brady Skjei will take over the 3rd pairing minutes. If another injury occurs, the Rangers will still have Dylan McIlrath and Raphael Diaz with Rangers NHL system experience. At forward, the Rangers have rookie Oscar Lindberg in waiting even though it seems that the coach has something against him by making him a healthy scratch for alot of the season after starting out as a top 10 rookie in scoring over the first few months. The coach has also used MArek Hrivik and Jayson Megna this season so both could fill in without looking lost. There are others in the system with NHL experience like Chris Summers, Chris Brown, Daniel Paille, and Brian Gibbons but if the Rangers have to get that deep into the system with either the top 9 forwards or top 4 defense, the Rangers would be hard pressed to keep winning.
This Rangers team can hold Crosby of the highlight reel with the Stepan/Kreider/Nash line while the Brassard/Miller/Zuccarello line can statistically stay with the Kessel/Hagelin line. Where the Rangers have a big advantage is the damage the E.Staal/Hayes/ Fast line can dominate the less talented Penguins 3rd line. The Rangers 4th line of Glass/ Moore/Stalberg will probably be used in pieces for penalty kills and Stalberg moving up in the lineup if someone in the top 9 falters.
I expect Pens goalie to play this series and Malkin to give it every chance to hit the ice. Still, The Rangers depth and getting stronger on the defense as the series moves along with the addition of Captain Ryan McDonagh to make a snowball affect that will carry these Rangers onto the 2nd round where who knows who they could play. Let the Playoffs begin!!! LET'S GO RANGERS!!!!