Here are six reasons the Rangers find themselves in the postseason with a little less than three weeks left in the regular season:
1. The stellar season of Henrik Lundqvist: Will he win the Hart Trophy? Probably not, with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin dominating like he has, but that doesn't make Lundqvist's best NHL season any less impressive. Helped by a lighter workload made possible by backup Martin Biron playing so well, Lundqvist is putting up career bests in goals-against average (1.89) and save percentage (.934) and has a League-high eight shutouts. He has 33 wins and plenty of time to eclipse his single-season best of 38 set in 2008-09. On a team that wins with defense, Lundqvist has been the rock-solid backbone.
SOG: 109 | +/-: 23
3. The effect of Brad Richards: Many will look at his immense contract and below-average numbers and think he hasn't been what the Rangers wanted. Richards is on pace for 62 points, tying for the fewest of his career, but his presence in the young locker room has had a calming, steadying effect, as evidenced by the team's lack of any true, extended slumps during the season. Del Zotto credits the mentoring of Richards for his breakout season. Richards' eight game-winning goals also show he's coming through when needed most.
4. The emergence of Ryan Callahan, goal scorer: There isn't a coach in the NHL who wouldn't want Callahan on his roster. He brings leadership, toughness, speed, energy, the willingness to get in front of any shot and tremendous smarts and skills on the penalty kill. This season, Callahan added goal-scoring ability to his resume, and he's headed toward his first 30-goal campaign (barring injury), with 26 in 66 games. Scoring goals isn't exactly the Rangers' forte, so getting them from Callahan has been a big reason for the team's success.
SOG: 243 | +/-: 16
6. The penalty kill saving the power play: With the man-advantage, the Rangers are the second-worst team in the NHL at 14.5 percent. But the penalty kill has been excellent, killing off 86.6 percent of opposition power plays, the fifth-best mark in the League. It's one thing to have a single special-teams unit in the bottom of the League, but having two would be devastating. Throw in the fact the Rangers have seven shorthanded goals, tied for sixth in the League, and the penalty kill has been terrific.
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