Two losses in a row have the New York Rangers on the brink of elimination after they seemed close to reaching their first Stanley Cup final since 1994. Has superstar netminder Henrik Lundqvist come up short? Or has their vaunted shot blocking let them down?
You've heard all about it. When the Blueshirts are winning, they're blocking tons of shots, with Lundqvist cleaning up anything that happens to get through. Coach John Tortorella demands that his players play hard, including repeatedly throwing their bodies in front of frozen rubber disks being fired at 100 mph. And when his players don't meet those standards (cough, Marian Gaborik, cough), they can expect to spend extra time on the bench or in the pressbox.
Think about it: Was it any surprise when Ryan Callahan was named team captain in the preseason? The gritty, self-sacrificing style of the U.S. Olympian was exactly what his coach wanted from all of his players. A captain's job is to lead by example. In Callahan, Tortorella had the perfect example of how he wanted his team to play.
But has shot blocking really been part of the Blueshirts' recipe for success, or is it just an overblown narrative? Let's dig into some numbers to find out.