Much to do for Rangers to be contenders this season
For starters, the Blueshirts currently find themselves in a playoff spot in the ever competitive Eastern Conference. As of this writing, the team is second in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the East with 69 points.
Secondly, the Rangers have locked up two of their most important players and ones that will be instrumental in helping this team in the playoffs. Prior to the new year, the team signed their franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to a seven-year contract extension and today, locked up Dan Girardi with a six-year contract extension as he has been their best defenseman since joining the team in the 2006-07 season.
It should also be noted that the team is a lot better offensively with Alain Vigneault behind the bench. The Blueshirts are third in the league in averaging just over 32 shots per game while also being close to the middle of the pack in goals for per game.
While these are all good things, the Blueshirts still need to make sure to do the following in order to not only get into the playoffs, but to also make a run once they are in them.
Lundqvist must be Lundqvist
There is no doubt that without Lundqvist, the Rangers would be in a lot of trouble.
While Lundqvist did get off to a slow start, he has been able to get his game back on track in a big way. As of this writing, Lundqvist is 22-18-3 with a 2.44 goals against average, a .918 save percentage and three shutouts.
If Lundqvist can take his strong play from both prior to and in the Olympics (named to Olympic All-Star team by members of the media) and transfer it into his game from now and into the playoffs, the Rangers will be a dangerous hockey club to face.
Nash Must Continue to Put the Puck in the Net
Without their leading scorer, Mats Zuccarello (15 goals and 28 assists for 43 points), for the next few weeks, the rest of the Rangers' offense needs to step up.
That will begin and end with Rick Nash. In just 43 games this season due to injury, Nash is the team's leading goal scorer with 19 goals and is their most dangerous offensive player.
While he cannot do it all by himself, Nash needs to continue putting the puck in the net on a regular basis and doing so in big spots. Come playoff time, goals are going to be hard to come by so if Nash can continue to stay hot and bring that into the playoffs, the Rangers will be a much tougher team to defend against.
The Blueshirts may be doing alright right now but prior to turning their game around, they were a team that struggled to put wins together.
The team must try to avoid losing consecutive games because not only will it bring the team's confidence down, but it will also cause them to lose valuable points in the standings. Should the Rangers start losing several games at a time, it would be very easy for another team to pick-up points and pass them in the standings.
A sign of a good team is one that can bounce back from bad games. The Rangers are obviously not going to win every game from here on out but when they lose a game, they must be able to respond quickly by picking-up two points in their very next game.
It Can Be Done
The Rangers may not have the talent or even the depth of the Pittsburgh Penguins or Boston Bruins but this is still a very good hockey club and one that can end up surprising a lot of people come April and May.
The next month and more is going to be a big test for the Blueshirts and should they do the above mentioned guidelines, they should pass with flying colors and go into the postseason looking like a contender.