Why the Rangers Could Be 2018 Stanley Cup Champions

Photo: Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports

This offseason has been an interesting one for the New York Rangers; after 2 disappointing seasons, the Rangers finally look like they have a roster that can win.

In the 2015-16 season, the Rangers had little offense and bad defense, and if Henrik Lundqvist was not playing good, they were not winning. In the 2016-17 season, they had the offensive firepower to start off the year; they were flying, scoring goals, and dominating.

But once teams learned how to take away their speed, they had to rely on the defense, which was still struggling with the age and regression of Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, and Kevin Klein. They were able to make it better from the 2015-16 season by adding Nick Holden, and Brady Skeij but they couldn’t help enough, and come playoffs, Holden completely fell apart costing the Rangers at least 2 games.

However, GM Jeff Gorton made all the right moves; he didn’t go all out for Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline, and instead picked him up in free agency. He also was able to get Brendan Smith locked down to a multi-year deal, and acquired Tony Deanglo from the Arizona Coyotes. This solidified the blue line, and made it to an elite level that can contend. The offense on the other hand was partially gutted, having an absence of a first line center after Derek Stepan was dealt to Arizona with goalie Antii Raanta, and losing some young depth in Oscar Lindberg who was selected in the expansion draft.

There’s now questions on what the Rangers will do; in my opinion Mika Zibanjad is 100% able to be a number 1 center, but that will still leave holes in the 2nd line or 3rd line, knowing that they don’t want to move JT Miller who was a young breakout player last season. The Rangers also lack a top forward; If you look at recent Stanley Cup winners, there is one guy that is on another level: 2016/2017 Crosby, 2015 Kane, 2014 Kopitar, 2011 Bergeron, and so on. The Rangers simply lack this player ever since Rick Nash’s regression. These are things that need to be confronted before the Rangers’ season. For me, the Rangers roster is back to elite form, and back to contender shape, and now is likely the last year they will be able to win the Stanley cup in the Lundqvist era.

Now here are my reasons why the Rangers can win the 2018 Stanley cup: Despite the holes on offense, the Rangers defense is once again elite, and as the saying goes, defense wins championships. Mika Zibanjad looked like an all-star last year before his injury, the question is if he can do that again. He showed flashes of it in the playoffs, and if he can keep himself at that level, which I believe he will, he will fill the Rangers issue of not having a top forward.

Chris Kreider. If you watch Rangers hockey, you know that Kreider can turn it on. For example during the Rangers vs Senators Game 6 last season, after the first period, he looked like the second coming of Jaromir Jagr, if he can keep it going all year or not will play a crucial part in the Rangers success.

Kevin Shattenkirk is just what the Rangers needed, a puck moving defenseman, he can score, can run a power play, and he is the perfect partner with Ryan McDonagh, no question he is an amazing addition to the roster and will help greatly.

The collapse of the division. The Penguins and Capitals have been the story of the NHL for the past 2 seasons, but they both have lost tons of key players this offseason, and I believe they are no longer contenders making it easier for the Rangers to win the division and make it farther in the playoffs.

Lastly and most importantly, Henrik Lundqvist. There’s no question that once playoffs come Lundqvist takes a new form, but we all know he is aging, and it has shown in past years. The biggest question is if Henrik Lundqvist can keep at an elite form all year. If he can, the Rangers will be contenders for the Stanley cup. Despite all the change, and the many questions this season, the Rangers have the roster to make a final push for a cup.

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