The New York Rangers have an elite goaltender, scoring depth and one of the best shutdown defensive pairings in the League, all the ingredients necessary to win their second Stanley Cup in the past 72 years.
The Big Why: In his previous four seasons, Henrik Lundqvist averaged 71 games. Except for his first full season in 2006-07, his numbers in the postseason always slipped from the ones he posted in the regular season. Lundqvist has said repeatedly he never feels tired once the postseason rolls around, but the numbers tell a different story.
That shouldn't be a problem this year, as the 30-year-old Lundqvist was as well-rested as ever, and it resulted in a season that could see him win the Vezina Trophy. He barely cracked the 60-game mark, which should make him fresher for a deep playoff run.
The Rangers lacked a second line that could score consistently during the past few seasons, but plugged that hole and added a veteran with championship experience in center Brad Richards. The 2004 Conn Smythe winner's addition allowed Derek Stepan to center a dangerous second line that, at times, had 40-goal scorer Marian Gaborik on its right wing.
Center - NYR
GOALS: 25 | ASST: 41 | PTS: 66
SOG: 229 | +/-: -1
For most of the season, coach John Tortorella had Richards and Gaborik on separate lines, but he put the two together for most of the final month of the season. Whether Richards and Gaborik are together with Ryan Callahan on the second line, it's no longer as simple as shutting down the Rangers' No. 1 line.
Defensively, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh have been sensational at stopping the opposition's top scorers this season. With that pairing rising to the occasion, it allows fellow defenseman Michael Del Zotto more freedom to contribute offensively from the blue line.
The Big Uh-Oh: There isn't a lot of Stanley Cup Playoff experience on the club. For most of the Rangers, this past season's five-game loss to the Caps was their first taste of the postseason. But there are plenty of veterans on which to lean when it comes to Stanley Cup experience -- Ruslan Fedotenko has won two Cups while Mike Rupp and Richards have one apiece.
The Final Argument: The No. 1 seed doesn't guarantee anything -- the 2008 Red Wings are the only team to win its conference and the Cup since the lockout -- but avoiding the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in the first round is huge for the Rangers, who seem to have all the pieces in place to win its first Cup since 1994.