With Vladimir Tarasenko addition, the Rangers have transformed into legitimate Stanley Cup contenders

After a poor performance in the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs, the New York Rangers got off to a great start into the 2022-2023 season. This was a team that had an 11-10-5 record after losing 5-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks on December 3rd. Their high preseason aspirations looked bleak.

But New York rallied and won 18 of their last 25 games since that fateful night.

On Friday, however, they clung to the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Even with the addition of center Vincent Trochek during the off-season, the Rangers still needed more offensive firepower. This is a testament to how complex the East is.

Enter Vladimir Tarasenko.

On Thursday, the Rangers acquired St. Louis Blues star winger and defenseman Nico Mikkola in exchange for winger Sammy Blais, defenseman Hunter Skinner, a conditional 2023 first-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick.

With the arrival of Tarasenko, the Rangers have become the top tier of contenders for the Stanley Cup. In terms of talent alone, Tarasenko’s attacking acumen makes him one of the most dangerous strikers in the world. This is a player who has scored at least 30 goals in six of the last eight seasons.

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Vladimir Tarasenko

New York • F

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As you can see above, Tarasenko has only 29 points (10 goals and 19 assists) for the 2022-23 season, but it’s important to note that injuries have limited him to just 38 games. The all-star winger missed 10 consecutive games with a hand injury but recently returned to full-time action shortly before the All-Star break.

Tarasenko is due to make his Rangers debut on Friday against the Seattle Craken. It’s not yet clear where exactly Tarasenko will play, but it’s likely that the 31-year-old stallion will move to the Rangers’ top spot along with center Mika Zibanejad and forward Artemy Panarin.

Regardless of which line Tarasenko plays, his offensive performance should increase noticeably. He joins a much more dangerous crime in New York. Adam Fox, Zibanejad and Panarein are in the NHL’s top 12 in assists. With that in mind, there should be slightly more chances to score after playing for the Blues, who are 22nd in the league with just 3.00 goals per game.

While the plan is for Tarasenko to help the Rangers create more breathing room in the Wild Card standings, he could really prove his worth in the postseason.

New York had missed the Stanley Cup playoffs in three of the previous four seasons until last year. They ended up outplaying the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes in a seven-game series in the first two rounds of the postseason, and the Eastern Conference Finals even got off to a great start. They beat the Lightning 9-4 in their first two games and surprisingly took a 2-0 lead in the series.

Then everything went south. New York lost the next four games of the series, scoring just five goals in those four contests.

Add in Tarasenko, who won the Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019, and the Rangers may be able to avoid such a collapse. His track record in the playoffs speaks for itself. In 90 career postseason games, the star forward:

  • 60 points (41 goals and 19 assists)
  • He scored 11 goals and had six assists during the 2019 Stanley Cup.
  • In the 2015/16 postseason, Tarasenko also excelled, scoring nine goals and six assists in 20 games.

Yes, even before the trade, the Rangers had a roster of the most talented playmakers the league had to offer. But Panarin, Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Trochek, Philip Chitil and now Tarasenko arguably make one of the strongest top-six forward groups in the entire NHL, making the Rangers incredibly dangerous in the playoffs.

Even without Tarasenko’s move, the Rangers were likely going to make the playoffs as one of three Eastern Conference Wild Card teams. But it’s worth wondering if they would have had the firepower to make a deep breakthrough in the Stanley Cup.

Now with Tarasenko, the Rangers have a real shot at winning the Lord Stanley Cup for the first time since 1994.

Source: www.cbssports.com

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