NHL Picks: Gauging the Rangers Eastern Conference Opponents for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Ross Benjamin

Sunday, April 12, 2015 6:36 PM GMT

Sunday, Apr. 12, 2015 6:36 PM GMT

Our NHL consultant examines the potential challenges that lie ahead for the New York Rangers in the upcoming 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Will they be vulnerable to an early round upset? Who will be their toughest challenge in the Eastern Conference? Read our informative preview article in order to find out the answers.

Presidents’ Trophy Winner preparing for a Stanley Cup Run
The New York Rangers were the winners of the Presidents’ Trophy for the 2014-2015 NHL campaign. In doing so, they’ll be the #1 overall seed for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs. That trophy is awarded annually to the team which amasses the most points during the regular season schedule. The Rangers were able to do so by accumulating 113-points, and it’s the first time since the 1993-1994 regular season campaign they were the top point getter in the NHL. That Rangers team was the 1994 Stanley Cup champions, and they’ve been unable to replicate that feat since.

 

First Round Opponent
The Rangers will face one of their Metropolitan Division rivals in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals when they square off with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins qualified for the playoffs on the last day of the regular season by virtue of a 2-0 home win over the Buffalo Sabres. Pittsburgh did more down the stretch to prevent themselves from making the playoffs, than they did to earn their opportunity. Despite the win over the Sabres in their regular season finale, those making NHL picks are aware that the Penguins went a dismal 4-11 over their last fifteen games. This offensively gifted team inexplicably struggled to score goals during that futile stretch, scoring two goals or less in ten of those fifteen games. The Rangers defeated Pittsburgh in three of the four regular season matchups, outscored them by a cumulative 16-7 margin, and the only Penguins win came via an overtime shootout.

 

Second Round Challenges
Assuming that the Rangers get by the Penguins in the opening round, they’ll face the winner of the series between the Capitals and Islanders. The Rangers were 3-1 versus the Capitals this season, and won both games played at the Verizon Center in Washington. The Islanders defeated the Rangers in three of their five meetings played between these fierce rivals. However, the Rangers won each of the last two, and they also amassed 41 or more shots on goal in three of the five games versus the Islanders. Although both of these teams will in all likelihood present a stiffer challenge than Pittsburgh, NHL odds makers realize that the Rangers should have no excuses, and not advancing beyond this point will be viewed as a major disappointment.

 

Toughest Projected Opponent
When it’s all said and done I’m of the opinion that we’ll be watching a Rangers and Canadiens Eastern Conference Final. If that indeed comes to fruition, it will be a rematch of the 2014 Eastern Final in which the Rangers won in five games. However, Montreal’s star goaltender Carey Price was injured early in that series, and the burden was placed upon backup Dustin Tokarski. Despite that factor not being the sole reason that the Rangers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, it certainly was an impactful occurrence. Barring an unforeseen injury to Price once again, this will be a much tougher series for “The Blue Shirts” this time around, and if they’re going to advance to the second consecutive Stanley Cup Finals this would be by far their toughest challenge.

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