As the President’s Trophy-winners, the Rangers are the certified Best Team In The NHL.
And if you don’t believe me, check it out with the Los Angeles Kings who abdicated their championship Cup throne by not even making the playoffs.
There are a few problems with the Blueshirts being the NHL’s Top Banana:
1. Just about everyone else in the fraternity wants to see New York’s banana at the bottom of the bunch.
2. Alain Vigneault’s merry troupe will be targeted more intensely than the also-rans.
3. There is such a thing as upset. Ask the Vancouver Canucks.
So, while the Beloved Blueshirts are accepting congrats for putting the Penguins back in the Pitts, they have issues of concern. These should be addressed Monday with the start of pre-Round Two workouts.
Dusting off The Maven’s Thought-Recording Machine, I can imagine Monsieur Vigneault addressing the following points:
- ENERGIZING THE POWER PLAY: Watching the Rangers with the man advantage, I sometimes imagine that the PP Planning Box has a label on it: Batteries Not Included. Let’s face it, AV has to change things when the foe is woe into the penalty box. His first order of business is to get this idea about “The Perfect Shot” out of their craniums. Delete the sign that says STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN. Just shoot the puck, Ryan. SHOOT THE PUCK.The power play is not at a railroad crossing. Stop stopping and start firing. Put pucks on the net. If the biscuit doesn’t find the twine it at least will produce rebounds and second chances.Too much time is wasted with the faked shots followed by a pass to either the left or right side. Waiting patiently for the perfect shot may be workable on the drawing board but in this case patience is not a virtue. Get it off quickly — in deep if not in the net.Another issue centers on face-offs (29th). And as my super-sleuth Gus Vic points out, “The Rangers are haphazard too often when entering the attacking zone; they cut it too finely when they do set up.
Here’s the Solution: Check video of Derek Stepan’s opening goal in Game Five. A. Face-off win; B. Puck to the point; C. Shot gets through; D. Derek Stepan delivers the garbage goal. (And by the way garbage goals still count.)
- MAKING THE MOST OF REST: The Rangers quick packaging of the Penguins has resulted in a long layoff before the Second Round. Momentum has been dissipated. On the bright side, the rest will benefit Kevin Klein. As for Mats Zuccarello, I will bow to the doctor’s report. Rest — in this case — can’t hurt. Overall, the Blueshirts escaped Round One not too black-and-blue. They did not want a heavy, physical series for openers nor did they get one. By contrast, their next opponents — Islanders or Capitals — should be beat to heck after their seven-game slugfest. Advantage, Rangers.
- WILL LUNDQVIST LEAD THEM? Henrik Lundqvist is more motivated than any Ranger in terms of June Champagne-Tasting. Well-rested, His Majesty has shown he’s in mint condition. That means he makes 99 percent of the saves he’s supposed to make and is tough to beat on a clean shot.My Man, Gus Vic, adds this Henny tidbit: “About 95 percent of the goals he surrenders are on deflections, broken plays and crease-crashing.” Hot Tip Department: Lundqvist will be confronted with crease-crashers by either the Isles or Caps.As his club advances, so does the pressure mount on Henrik to prove that he’s a Cup-capable goalie. And, by the way, this is not breaking news to the most popular Ranger.The Maven’s Ouija Board declares: Lundqvist is as ready as he’ll ever be and so are his mates.
- THE RESERVES — ANY RESERVATIONS? Simply because his name has not achieved household status, Matt Hunwick has — by many but not me — been labeled “questionable” as a replacement for injured Kevin Klein.Then again, Klein once had the “questionable” sign put on him when Anton Stralman left for the Southland. In no time at all, Klein’s superior play earned him a Top Four placement.Guess what? Since Klein’s sabbatical began, Hunwick has proven that he can play at a high post-season level. Maybe he doesn’t put up the offensive points but there’s nothing offensive about that.Maven’s Hunwick Report Card: A. That’s A as in adroit. Matt gets the job done on defense. He’s fit snugly into the defensive core.And here’s the last bit of math: The defensive unit allowed six even-strength goals in five games. Not bad, Hunwick and friends, not at all bad!
P.S. — Tomorrow I’ll investigate such intriguing topics as: 1. Adjustments for Round Two; 2. Discipline against the annoying likes of Tom Wilson and Cal Clutterbuck; 3. The X-Factor.