The New York Rangers success this season has been attributed to many things. Many fans and pundits reference their special teams and goaltending. Others refer to the roster shake up and the coaching change. In truth it is all of these things and none of these things. The team is playing in a manner that proves it is more than the sum of its parts. There is an air of confidence surrounding this team that has not existed since the team won the President’s Trophy in 2015.
This season’s New York Rangers are a team that has found “it”. In the team’s fourth year since announcing a rebuild, the team has found ways to win that were out of reach the last three plus seasons. In every game there is a sense that the team can and will comeback or a calm that they will hold their leads. This is in stark contrast to last year’s team and is reminiscent of the culture change that occurred when the league had returned to play with the 2005-06 season.
The more things change the more they stay the same
The preceding seven seasons were some of the darkest in New York Rangers history. They missed the playoffs every season from the 1997-98 campaign through the 2003-04 season. The organization wasted the twilight, but still very effective, years of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Mike Richter and Brian Leetch. Then President and General Manager Glen Sather traded away just about every viable asset leading into the lockout that cost the league the 2004-05 season.
The team that came in the following season was built around solid veteran leadership with a splash of youth. They found success behind a resurgent Jaromir Jagr, a rookie goaltender named Henrik Lundqvist and a structured team defense that was absent for many years prior. Though there are differences, this year’s team has the same swagger that the 2005-06 team had before the 2006 Olympic break derailed their momentum.