Every team who makes the playoffs has one. A player who can either do great things for his team, or disappear into the foliage for large stretches. The New York Rangers are no different. But who is their X-factor?
It's got to be Brandon Dubinsky, right? I mean, this is a guy who signed a hefty $4.2 million deal this past offseason, then completely flopped offensively this year. He referred to this season as "a nightmare" to the media, but also said he was excited to get a fresh start once the playoffs rolled around.
When all was said and done Dubinsky finished the year with 10 goals and 24 assists. The 34 points was the lowest total of his professional career.
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Dubinsky has actually be a steady playoff performer for the Rangers, notching 15 points in 22 games played. His best year was in the 2008 playoffs where he notched eight points in 10 games. More than a few people thought Dubinsky's numbers last year (24 goals, 30 assist and 54 points - all career-highs) were proof that he was finally breaking out. This year was a tremendous regression.
So why is he even considered an X-factor? Mainly because he has played some of his best hockey the final few weeks of the season. He had 8 points in the last 11 games, and started becoming a factor in the offensive zone. That's a lot more than we saw from him in the beginning of the year.
It's not just about the offense for Dubinsky either. He hasn't just been putting up points, he's been hitting, causing turnovers and basically playing the game we expected to see from him all year.
Believe it or not, the Rangers are a much better team when he is on his game. They might not need him to win games (as they have shown all year), but it makes life much easier when you can have Dubinsky adding secondary scoring as well.
Brian Boyle: Hard not to give Boyle the nod here, although I think Dubinsky's game will be more important for the Rangers' success in the long run. But Boyle, who also found his game as the season winded to a close, also contributes in ways other than putting the puck into the back of the net. Boyle is one of the Rangers better defensive forwards, is a monster when it comes to blocking shots and can win battles in the corners. Hard not to think Boyle (who scored 20 goals last year and wanted to repeat that number this season, but obviously didn't) will also benefit from a fresh start.
Carl Hagelin: Hagelin isn't getting a honorable mention because he had a rough year and needs a fresh start. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Hagelin had a remarkable freshman season, posting 38 points in 64 games. The question for Hagelin is whether or not he will be able to use the tools that made him successful in the regular season (his speed, hustle and ability to create space for himself and his line) in the playoffs.