Rangers regular-season grades
Len Redkoles/Getty ImagesThe Rangers have had plenty of reasons to celebrate this season.
Rangers' regular-season report card
Anyone who predicted the Rangers to finish first in the East with 109 points, pleas raise your hand. Yup, that’s what I thought. The resilient Rangers greatly surpassed preseason projections with a pretty stunning 2011-12 campaign. They weathered the loss of cornerstone defenseman Marc Staal, fought through a grueling European road trip to begin their season and endured the omnipresence of the HBO camera crews to grab the top spot at the halfway point of the season. After that, they never looked back. Despite being chased by the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins and Sidney Crosby’s surging Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers never relinquished their grip.
After months of a trial separation, coach John Tortorella finally reunited top center Brad Richards and sniper Marian Gaborik on the team’s first line with rookie winger Carl Hagelin and found the vaunted attack he so desired. But while the Rangers’ first line has forged chemistry and proven itself a formidable force, the team’s secondary scoring still leaves something to be desired. Captain Ryan Callahan has been a force but key contributors Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, Brian Boyle, and Artem Anisimov will need to add more if the Rangers want to improve an offense that ranked 11th in the league with 2.71 goals per game.
There are still legitimate questions to be raised on the Rangers’ defensive depth. Although the top tandem of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi has been as steady as any shutdown pair in the league, the Rangers will need Marc Staal back in peak form and 21-year-old Michael Del Zotto to play to his potential for the Rangers to have playoff success. Stu Bickel has been a capable third-pair defenseman but is often the odd man out with the bench shortened in the third. Anton Stralman has had good stretches, but has been inconsistent at times.
The Rangers penalty-kill has been very, very strong, surrendering only 36 power-play goals against, but the power-play has sapped momentum at key times throughout the season. Although the struggling unit recorded eight power-play goals over the past six games of the regular season, the team finished 23rd in the league with the man-advantage. Only two other playoff-bound teams -- Chicago (26th) and Phoenix (29th) -- finished beneath them.
No player has meant more to this Rangers team than goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The 30-year-old netminder has been tremendous in net all season, recording a career-high 39 wins while also boasting an impressive .930 save percentage and 1.97 goals against average.
This Rangers team is a resilient bunch and their relentless work ethic is a testament to the superior coaching effort by Tortorella. The fiery fixture has gotten in trouble with the league for his epic outbursts -- he has been fined $50,000 in total for his provocative comments this season -- but has found a receptive audience in his charges inside the Rangers’ dressing room. Tortorella will be among a handful of candidates for the Jack Adams Awards given to the league’s best coach and he has earned that consideration.
ABOUT THIS BLOG
After spending two seasons as the Islanders beat writer for Newsday, Katie Strang joined ESPN New York to cover the Rangers, Isles and Devils. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.