Through all they have encountered in the first 47 games of the season – injuries, distractions, HBO cameras -- the resilient Rangers have prevailed. The 31-12-4 Blueshirts have exceeded the expectations of many during their ascent to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Here are three questions to ponder heading into the All-Star Break:
1.Can they stay on top?
If Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win against the Bruins is any indication, yes. The Rangers matched up well against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions – arguably the toughest team in the league – and proved that they are a hard-nosed team with talent, toughness and character. They followed that up with a decisive 3-0 shutout against Winnipeg Tuesday, avoiding the dreaded “trap” game right before the break. Can the Rangers sustain that sort of identity with a target on their backs for the remainder of the season?
2.Will they make a deal?
Rangers team president and general manager Glen Sather has never been shy about pulling the trigger when it comes to making a deal, whether it’s making a swap at the deadline or landing a pricey free agent. As the league’s February 27 trade deadline approaches, does Sather stay the course with his sturdy squad or target a puck-moving defenseman or top-six forward to make the extra push for the post-season?
3.Who steps up in the second half?
Henrik Lundqvist’s Vezina-caliber season has made him the irrefutable Rangers MVP, but defensive stalwarts Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh have been the unsung heroes on the team’s injury-ravaged back end. Who will shine in the dog days that follow?