After the conclusion of the 2012-2013 season,which saw the New York Rangers getting eliminated in 5 games to the Boston Bruins in the semifinals, coach John Tortorella was fired and replaced by former Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. Tortorella then on to coach the Canucks for one season before getting fired on May 1, 2014, after the Canucks failed to make the postseason.
It looked like the Rangers would follow in Vancouver’s shadow early on, going 2-6-0 their first 8 games. One of those games was the infamous 9-2 loss against the San Jose Sharks that saw Tomas Hertl score 4 goals, while also consequently ending Martin Biron‘s playing career, as he retired shortly after. That proved to be a blessing in disguise, as Cam Talbot emerge from the minors. Ranger fans were quick to support him during games and have even nicknamed him “The Prince” (since Henrik Lundqvist is “The King”). October saw the Rangers give up 37 goals in 12 games and completing the month 5-7-0. Things weren’t looking good.
November proved to be a little nicer to the Rangers, as the compiled a 9-6-0 record during the month, but were once again inconsistent in December, going 6-6-1. Then, in January, New York Rangers fans witnessed their team transform. Players became comfortable with Vigneault’s system, and began having jump in their game. Following a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 3, the Rangers went 10-3-1 in the month’s span. By then their record was 30-23-3, and they were right back in the playoff race.
The Rangers finished the regular season with 96 points and went on to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Montreal Canadiens in 7, 7, and 6 games, respectively, to return to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. Each progressive round saw an increasing amount of critics and skeptics, which the Rangers proved wrong every time they advanced. Not many viewers, besides Rangers fans, gave the Broadway Blue much credit. And even with the appearance in the Final, nobody is really expecting the Rangers to make a repeat trip.
Watch for the Boys in Blue to prove doubters wrong once again.
Now a full year under Alain Vigneault’s system, there won’t be an extreme struggle to learn what the coach wants in the early goings of the season. The main core of the team, which includes Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, among others, is still in tact. Many claim that the loss of players such as Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman will damage any chance of another trip to the Final. The same people that counted out the Rangers at every step during the playoffs are now at it again because of a few depth changes. Notice a pattern?
Arguably the biggest loss the Rangers had was Anton Stralman, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brian Boyle also took his talents down south, reuniting with former New York Ranger captain Ryan Callahan. Brad Richards was bought out and subsequently signed with the Chicago Blackhawks. Enter Dan Boyle, a 38 year-old veteran defenseman that is a great powerplay QB, something the Rangers need work on. They had success 18.2% of the time during the regular season, good for 15th in the league. To account for players like Benoit Pouliot and Boyle leaving, Glen Sather signed depth players Matthew Lombardi, Lee Stempniak, and Tanner Glass.
Projected lineup for the 2014-2015 Season:
The Rangers are one of the fastest teams in the league, became more dangerous on the man-advantage with Dan Boyle, and now have a bouncer with Tanner Glass. Keep counting out the Broadway Blueshirts, with every doubt, they just keep getting stronger. The New York Rangers are the best dark horse in the NHL.