Rangers clinch 1st President's Trophy since 1993-94
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Winning the Presidents' Trophy for the NHL's best regular-season record has given the New York Rangers home-ice advantage for playoffs.
That's it. There are no guarantees how far they will get in the postseason and recent history is working against them.
Since the 2002-03 season, only the Detroit Red Wings (2007-08) and the Chicago Blackhawks (2012-13) have captured the Presidents' Trophy and gone on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Boston Bruins didn't make it past the second round last season and the Vancouver Canucks were knocked off in the first round in 2011-12 by the eventual Cup winners, the Los Angeles Kings.
''I think everyone knows that winning games in the playoffs is 10 times harder than winning in the regular season,'' defenseman Marc Staal said after the Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Tuesday night to clinch best record. ''I think we are excited to get it started. It should be a lot of fun. This is season two. We have to use what we learned this season to be a good hockey team in the playoffs.''
A year after losing the Kings in the Cup Finals, the Rangers (52-21-7 for 111 points) are on the verge of a franchise season. Their 52 wins tied the team record and their point total is one less than that franchise mark. Both marks were set in 1993-94, the last time they won the Stanley Cup.
Now might be a time for New York to exhale. It has a home game against Ottawa on Thursday and travels to Washington for the season finale on Saturday.
Don't look for major changes though. One of the biggest reasons for the success is that coach Alain Vigneault has his team looking no further than the next game. He also has gotten his players to accept roles. The team comes first.
''We want to continue to play the right way,'' Vigneault said. ''That's what we're going to try to do when Ottawa comes into our building on Thursday.''
The Rangers may have to wait until Saturday to find out who they will play in the first round. There were five teams fighting for the last four spots in the Eastern Conference - Boston, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Ottawa and the Islanders.
Those teams are in playoff mode now.
The Rangers are peaking though. They have won five straight games and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is getting back to mid-season form after missing nearly two months with a neck injury. If he falters, super sub Cam Talbot (21-9-4) can step in. Rick Nash has scored a career-best 42 goals and is among nine players who have scored in double figures in goals.
The most telling statistic shows the Rangers play on both ends of the rink. They are in the top three in goals for (248) and goals against (187).
''I'm very proud of our group, but we all know that we are going to be judged by what we do in the playoffs,'' Vigneault said. ''So this is a first step and we're going to get ready for the next one.''
Only eight of the previous 28 Presidents' Trophy winners have won the Cup that year. Three have lost in the finals. Six have lost in the first round.
''With the parity today, I think you would be a fool to pick a winner now,'' Devils forward Mike Cammalleri said. ''I think Vegas might make a lot of money this year. I put even money on anyone who gets in these playoffs.''