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5 Stanley Cup Playoff Questions for the New York Rangers

by Photo of Gil Santos

Justin Rutherford talks the Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello line, the Rangers’ playoff chances and more.

5 Stanley Cup Playoff Questions for the New York Rangers

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to begin on Wednesday and CHARGED.fm wants to prepare you for this exciting postseason. To get your ready, we contacted bloggers for the 16 playoff teams and asked them five questions to give us more insight about the teams they cover. Here is Justin Rutherford of Blue Seat Blogs talking about the New York Rangers and their playoff chances.

This season was full of adjustments for the New York Rangers. They had to adjust to first-year head coach Alain Vigneault's offensive-minded puck possession system. They also had to deal with the trade of captain Ryan Callahan in the middle of the season and find a way to fit in newcomer Martin St. Louis. Fortunately, the Blue Shirts were able to adjust accordingly in face of the tough circumstances and clinched their eighth playoff appearance in nine years. The Rangers finished with a 45-31-6 record and claimed the Metropolitan Division second seed and home ice at Madison Square Garden. To gauge the Rangers' Stanley Cup chances, I talked to Justin Rutherford of Blue Seat Blogs and here is what he had to say:   

1) The New York Rangers fell in the conference semis against the Boston Bruins. How has this team improved from last season and what are your main concerns?

The biggest area the Rangers have improved in from last season is depth. This year’s team has three solid, almost interchangeable scoring lines, and a reliable, defensive fourth line. Having the ability to roll all four keeps the top guys fresh, and creates matchup issues for the opposing team, especially at home. 

My biggest concern this year is an overall lack of team toughness. The playoffs are a much more physical environment, and while its not a huge concern, it’s still something to keep an eye on.

2) Who is an under the radar player that can make a huge impact on your playoff run this year this year?

He’s not completely under the radar, but I think Carl Hagelin could have a big impact on the postseason. He is a relentless forechecker and really drives puck possession. I could see him being a nightmare for opposing defenders.

3) Martin St. Louis hasn’t been as productive thus far for the Blue Shirts as he was earlier in the season for the Lightning. Why do you think that is and how do you think he will fare in the playoffs?

My Blue Seat Blogs colleague, The Suit, wrote a tremendous piece about Martin St. Louis’ acclimation to New York. He cited two main reasons for a difficult transition: 

1) Tampa has a very different offensive structure to the Rangers. St. Louis scored many of his goals from give-and-go type passes and finding room between the seams. New York doesn’t have many players with that type of vision or passing ability. They are much more straightforward offensively. 

2) St. Louis’ power play positioning was generally the right half wall, which in New York is usually occupied by Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello. Both of these factors are contributing to a tough adjustment to his new surroundings. 

As for the playoffs, St. Louis is a big time player who usually finds a way to get it done. I think he will make the necessary adjustments and find success during the second season.

4) The Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello line has probably been your best line this season. What makes this trio so good together?

At this point, many fans consider the Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello line to be the top line for the team. I think it comes down to what each guy brings from a skill-set standpoint. All three are gifted skaters. (Mats) Zuccarello has tremendous vision, creative instincts and passing ability. (Benoit) Pouliot has a nose for the net and a fantastic shot. (Derick) Brassard brings a little of each to the equation, resulting in an extremely well balanced line that does a lot of things well. They are little suspect defensively, but their offensive production more than outweighs those shortcomings.

5) What is your overall prediction for the Rangers this postseason

I think the Rangers have the ability to make a deep run in the East. Considering the goaltending track record in Pittsburgh the past couple of postseasons, the only team in the East that really scares me is Boston. Additionally, I think several teams out west would be very difficult draws, as well. Ultimately, I think the team can make it to the Conference Finals, but I’d be surprised if they were able to knock off Boston in a seven-game series.

Justin Rutherford writes for the New York Rangers' blog Blue Seat Blogs and also is the co-founder of a goalie development company called MAC Goaltending. You can follow him on Twitter @tappingtheposts

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