Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News wrote that Henrik Lundqvist needs a sidekick like Batman needed Robin in order to win a Cup. Bondy reasons that Chicago has Toewes and Kane and the Penguins have Malkin and Crosby. Toewes and Kane’s Blackhawks are set to face off against three young stars from Tampa Bay known as the Triplets.
Sure the Rangers won the President’s trophy en route to the top seed in the playoffs but they lost in a Game Seven at home where they were supposed to be unbeatable. At some point luck is going to run out. They’ve gotten the right breaks at times this playoff season, but they’ve also had injuries that have hurt them, unlike Chicago and Tampa who are now in the Stanley Cup Finals.
If we go back to last year, look at the Rangers and Kings. Two teams that almost mirrored each other in the Finals at the time. Two goaltenders that were hot at the time that lead their team to the championship of each respected division. Lucky bounces at the right time, the ability to score on the power play and the teams were healthy through the playoffs. The last part can’t be understated enough. Look at the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final, the loss of Mats Zuccarello was tough for the offense to overcome in the Washington series but somehow they were able to overcome there. However when Ryan McDonagh broke his foot in Game 4 of the ECF, he was pretty much less than 50 percent for the rest of the series. It’s tough when the captain of the blueline can’t do what he’s supposed to do, especially when you are funneling everything into Lundqvist and getting no offense. I know every team struggles with injuries but if the Blackhawks had Duncan Keith break his foot and lost Kane, I doubt they’d be in the Final. I realize hockey is about next man in line, but it’s hard to replace your top D man and one of your top wingers.
There is something to be said however for having a team that can score and that’s something that the Rangers need help with. There’s plenty of youth on this team, so I don’t think there’s a need to go with a younger set of players. Maybe a shake up at the top by sending Nash out and replacing St. Louis and possibly Dan Boyle? There certainly are some options available in the trade market to be explored in the offseason as well, and I think that’s more than likely going to be address by Glenn Sather.
Speaking of Sather, Bondy had a lot to say about Sather when he criticized the trade making abilities of the Ranger’s GM. However, had the Rangers made it back to the Cup again I’m not certain Bondy would have spoken so harshly of Sather. I’m not going to say that the St. Louis trade looks wonderful in hindsight but it was a deal that was made in the short-term not for the future. Sather knew that Callahan wasn’t going to resign and was trying to get something for nothing while trying to push the Rangers through the playoffs for the next couple of seasons. As for the various trades: Yandle and company, they were done to add pieces to an already strong core. I don’t believe Sather’s job is safe just because he’s a friend to the owner, he did put together a President’s trophy winning team. Plus let’s be fair, only one team can win the Cup, and it’s a very difficult market. Sather has won Cups before, yes this is a different time, with free agency and salary caps but everyone has to play by that rule too. If we all followed that mantra, GMs would be fired every single year when they didn’t win the Cup.
I am a Ranger fan, but I haven’t been convinced that altogether this team is as good as Chicago or Anaheim. Those two teams have depth upon depth. While Lundqvist is a better goalie than Crawford or Anderson, the forward depth and defensive parts that those two teams roll out I believe can’t be matched. In a seven game series I believe it would be the Kings series all over again, with Lundqvist having to play every game on his head trying to keep the Rangers in the game while hoping that the power play could score. As a Ranger fan I don’t want to see that. I don’t believe that’s Vigneault’s fault as much as it is the need to cut some of the dead weight. It’s time to shake up things. Is the window closing? I’m not sure the window was open. The West is dominating things. If it’s not the West, it’s Boston or Pittsburgh. It’s hard to accept but maybe there are only so many dynamic duos to go around.