The top-seeded New York Rangers allowed the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference this season, thanks in large part to goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist. Now they look to exert their defensive mastery over the rest of the NHL on their way to the Stanley Cup. Jeff Klein of the New York Times discussed the Rangers changes of making it back to the finals for the first time since 1994 on this week’s Only A Game.
One of the biggest reasons for New York’s success this season is head coach John Tortorella. Tortorella won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he’s brought that championship experience to New York.
“He is strict and constantly demanding of his players, and is very grouchy and high-strung,” Klein said. “But, he is a master tactician, and he is a fiend for hard work and conditioning. This Ranger team, they’re a young group and they’ve all come up together. They throw themselves in front of shots, they constantly throw body checks, during the regular season they led the league in fighting, and they’ve gone from a bubble playoff team the the No. 1 team in the East.”
On the players’ side, Klein says there are two that stand out more than others in terms of why the Rangers are so successful this season.
“One is the captain, Ryan Callahan,” he said. “He really does it all for that team. He leads most NHL forwards in blocking shots. He throws body checks all over the place. Then, of course, the goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, who had his best season out of many fine seasons in the NHL, but he was probably the best goalie in the league this year.”
The Rangers convincingly beat the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of their playoff series on Thursday night, and Klein said things are looking good for New York throughout the rest of the postseason.
“I predicted that they would win this series in six [games], and I think they could go all the way to the Final quite easily. They are not only physically ready, but mentally ready to advance.”