Why it’s Cup or bust for the Rangers entering 2024 with massive expectations

New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) and New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) celebrate the goal by New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period at Madison Square Garden
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers entered the new year in the NHL’s top spot of the rankings, the first time they’ve done so since their Stanley Cup-winning 1993-94 campaign. With the midway point of the season quickly approaching, it’s clear that this year holds the potential to bring the Cup home for the first time in three decades.

The Rangers are the best team in the NHL

With the Vegas Golden Knights receiving a shutout defeat in yesterday’s 2024 Winter Classic, the Blueshirts maintain the lead as the NHL’s best team as the season gets back on schedule this evening. The Rangers currently hold a one-point lead over the Boston Bruins, and although there are three teams just two points behind them, New York has played more games than them. 

Each of the top four teams in the league will play tonight, meaning that there could be a dramatic shift in the standings heading into tomorrow. But with the Rangers facing off against the Carolina Hurricanes, there is hope that the Blueshirts can strengthen their grip on the top spot in the league.

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Maintaining momentum for the remainder of the season

Per MoneyPuck, the Rangers have the highest chance of any team to make the 2024 postseason with a 98.8% likelihood. This statistic is a welcomed sight for fans, but the Blueshirts will need to maintain their elite play in order to make this projection become a reality.

The Rangers already experienced one slump earlier this season. Their perfect play became a defensive nightmare, and goaltending was not up to par. They luckily managed to escape this stretch of poor performances without any damage to their reputation as a Cup contender, but it’s imperative that the Blueshirts do not repeat their previous problems. 

With the midway point of the season just right around the corner and the trade deadline rapidly approaching, teams need to begin working on making minor adjustments to their rosters, not solving crisis-level issues. As long as the Rangers remain hot, they should progress through the remainder of the regular season with relative ease.

Are the Rangers true Stanley Cup contenders?

It’s no secret that this is one of the best New York teams that fans have seen in many years. The hiring of HC Peter Laviolette as well as the resurgence of elite offensive production from the top stars have propelled the Blueshirts into the discussions of Stanley Cup favorites.

At this point of the year, the Rangers are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. The offense, defense, and goaltending are performing in a league of their own, and as long as the Blueshirts can continue this play and live up to the high expectations set by a hot start, the chances of bringing the Cup home will be higher than ever.