Five Playoff Questions Facing The New York Rangers


After everything the team has accomplished this regular season, there are still questions that may determine the fate of the Rangers this post season

As the focus shifts towards the playoffs tomorrow night, there are still unanswered questions for the New York Rangers to answer. And the only way they will be answered is by seeing it with our own two eyes.

The regular season was telling of what deficiencies the Rangers need to improve on. Of course, they are not the end all, be all of the team’s fate in this year’s post season run.

However, they could play parts in making the Ranger’s road to the Stanley Cup easier.

1.  Where’s the power on the power play?

Oh the dreaded man-advantage. Most teams would love the power play.

Having the opportunity to kick a team, when they are a man down. It could determine a key moment in a game. Momentum can be swung in either team’s favor.

Whether it is a game tying goal, a game-winning goal, or just a goal to kick start your offense, it is an advantage that should not be squandered.

This season, as in seasons past, that’s been the Rangers difficulty. It is the team’s universal question each and every game, “What is wrong with the power play?”

When a team, such as the Rangers, have offensive weapons such as Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard, and Chris Kreider, fans expect more success than what has been shown.

In the regular season, the Rangers were ranked 21st in the league in the man-advantage department. They are carrying an overall success rate of 16.8% into the playoffs. Their power play percentage at home is not much of an improvement, finding the back of the net with the man-advantage 16.4% of the time (19 for 116).

Thankfully, the team is sound defensively and has an excellent penalty kill unit that they both make up for the power play deficiencies. However, the power play has to improve or it’s going to make their job that much harder.

But, if history proves, you don’t need a dominant power play to make it to the end. Just refer to last season.

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2.  Can the defense hold the line?

The Rangers strength has and will be the these playoffs.

They finished the season as the third best team in goals against average of 2.28. Only the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Blackhawks were better.

The defensive corps is perhaps the best all-around in the league. All of the players have at least four years under the belt in the NHL. They are a mix of young and old veterans, who have been through it all.

If ever the team needs confidence, it will come from the defense. But, what makes this team more noticeable is what their forwards are doing. They are coming back to help out the defense, making it easier to defend against the likes of Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby.

Just as John Tortorella put a stamp on the team with most of his players blocking shots; Alain Vigneault is putting his stamp by making it everyone’s responsibility to play defense.

In last season’s playoffs, the Rangers were the second best team in goals against average of 2.40 in 25 games. With Vigneault’s defensive system in it’s second year, that number could go down even lower.

Will fans be able to see it when it counts though?

Dec 23, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (61) and right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) react after Nash

3.  Will the real Rick Nash stand up?

Ok, for this postseason, will we get the Rick Nash that scored 40+ goals this season or will it be another poor showing in the playoffs?

He’s much like the Rangers power play, it just makes things easier when he scores.

It’s not just that he scores to give the team a goal. No, it’s more than that. It’s the confidence he gives his teammates that he has come to play. But even when he doesn’t score, just the fact that he is taken the puck hard to the net, getting in the gritty areas around the net makes him dangerous.

However, what is making me more of a threat has been his defensive side. After the Sochi Olympics, it seems Nash found another side of him. He found himself on the penalty kill unit for Team Canada under Mike Babcock.

From that time on, he’s been able tap more into his defensive style creating chances for his team mates.

If Nash is able to bury some goals and rack up the points, all while being aggressive with his back checking, then those previous playoff performances will get out the window.

New York Rangers
New York Rangers /

New York Rangers

4.  How can the Rangers be their own worst enemy

The key to success or failure for the Rangers are themselves.

Fans have seen the team play at their very best, making few mistakes and being precise on their passing and playing that quick transition game, by causing turnovers.

But, fans have also seen where the team shoots themselves in the foot by the same thing. Poor, sloppy passing. Giving the puck away at inopportune times.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

The Rangers will need to take care of the puck to overcome teams in the playoffs. And these are not just any teams. They made the playoffs for a reason.

You cannot expect to turn the puck over more than 10 times in a game to a team such as the Pittsburgh Penguins and get away with it.

In that case, expect Henrik Lundqvist to be standing on his head all night cause that is what is going to happen.

If the Rangers want to the game easier on themselves, they have to ensure each man is responsible with the puck on their stick.

Dec 13, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (30) gets ready for the start of play against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period at Rogers Arena. The New York Rangers won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

5.  Will the King rule the playoffs?

Speaking of Lundqvist, will he be able to lead the team to glory this time around?

He certainly has seen his fair share of success in his career. We don’t need to list his previous accomplishments cause we all know who the King is.

However, the team will be dictated by how he performs. And, this season has been unique for Lundqvist.

It was the first time that Lundqvist underwent a serious injury that sidelined him for nearly two months. He came back in time for the last three weeks of the season.

Is that enough time? From his performances in those games, you could say so.

Now, he should be well-rested and primed for a deep run in the playoffs. The remarks about being rusty are no longer an excuse for him now.

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