Doom and gloom has been the prevailing thought in RangerLand theses few seasons and for the most part, understandable. But I think you would have to be a blind person suffering from depression to not see these Rangers in a different light at this point in the season.
The Good: This team plays like a team. They have shown they can play a gutsy shut-down defense. They can do it on the road in tough buildings against tough teams. They get the big saves from the king who has battled more these past weeks then I can remember. They can kill penalties and with the addition of McCabe, can actually be a threat with one man up. They can protect the lead as demonstrated from being the only team that is unbeaten when leading after two periods. They battle for each other, go into the dirty areas, maintain possession on the down-low cycle. Although they will never be confused for a highly skilled offensive juggernaut, they can score goals...they type of goals that can win games in the playoffs.
The Bad: Although they have show the ability to score as reflected in the top end of the league Goals For and a very good goal differential, quite a bunch of those did come in blowouts. But before we dismiss those offensive outbursts I think it it necessary to say in those game they seemed to make the other team quit. Whether it was a relentless forecheck, punishing the other teams defense, frustrating them with lots of blocked shots..the Blueshirts, to some extent, did force some teams to just mail it in. So give credit where credit is due. The Bad from all of this is I have concerns that this team has trouble playing great defense without sacrificing its offense (as demonstrated in the Bruin's game) We are not a big transition team. I think this teams lacks a bit of puck movement from the defense corps that can consistently turn thwarted attacks into offensive rushes. Still, i would rather have a team that can play defense or offense than a team that can only do one.
The Ugly: I am hard pressed to find anything "ugly" about this team. Sure some players are not having banner years but others are. Injuries are an ugly part but you can't expect a team that plays like they do to not have them. Again, I would prefer a team that battles and sacrificing their body and taking injuries along the way than a team that plays on the perimeter. Home ice perfomance in defintly not a strong point this season but I attribute a lot of that to the utterly boring crowd most of the time. This should change during playoffs as more diehard fans show up and give thier energy to the team. Also considering they will most likly not have home ice advantage this playoffs, thier road record should help compensate this area. The only other 'ugly' thing I can think of but would not necessarily call it ugly, would be the inexperience of playoff hockey for a lot of kids on this team. This is a necessary evil if you want a team to grow from it's kids. Though nothing has shown us that these 'kids' can not perform in big games, just the opposite in most cases. Yet, the possibility of some of these kids have a tough adjustment period during these playoffs exist.
Although this team is not perfect I am pressed to say any team is this year. Most of the top teams have pimples...whether it is key injuries (Pit., Van. Ana., etc...) or other holes such as goaltending (Phi, TB) or key players having off years, there is NO ONE dominate team that looks unbeatable. And the way the Rangers play can give any team on the docket a problem.
What says you??? Pretenders or contenders? I say neither at this point but I like the way the team battles and battling is a big part of the playoffs. So I'm on the right side of 'or'. You?