As Rangers and Knicks Start Post Season Journey, Can Either Win a Championship?

The road to a championship is fraught as the Rangers try to bring home Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time since 1994 and the Knicks attempt to bring home the NBA championship for the first time since 1972.

| 19 Apr 2024 | 01:27

New York sports fans haven’t experienced this kind of rapture from their hockey and basketball teams since 1994. That year, the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, and the Knicks took the Houston Rockets to seven games in the NBA Finals.

Now, both of Madison Square Garden’s teams are on the verge of possibly winning championships once again. The Knicks are second-seeded in the Eastern Division after their 50-win regular season and the Rangers secured the president’s cup, which goes to the NHL team with the most points in the standings in the regular season with their 4-0 win over the Ottawa Senators on April 15, giving them an impressive 55-23-4 record and 114 points

The only question New York sports fans care about is: Can either team win a title this spring?

The Rangers, yes. The Knicks, probably not.

The Rangers

First, the Rangers.

Powered by one of the NHL’s best power plays, the Rangers have proven to be lethal with a man advantage. Adam Fox is one of the league’s best playmakers and has been more assertive when it comes to shooting the puck. Artemi “The Breadman” Panerin has been among the league’s most prolific scorers. Panerin has emerged as such a folk hero that he was mentioned this season on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” by Rangers’ diehard Larry David.

Best of all, no NHL team boast two comparable goaltenders as Igor Shesterkin and Jonathan Quick. In the intensity of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Rangers have a major advantage over other teams. If Shesterkin, the No. 1 goalie, should get injured or hit a cold streak, Quick can step in, as he did so often during the regular season and the Rangers won’t miss a beat in goal.

Throughout their brilliant regular season, the Rangers exhibited a tendency to play at the level of their competition. That is, the team excelled against the powerful Boston Bruins, for example, sweeping the season series after losing every game a year ago.

But the Rangers looked flat and apathetic in the final week of the regular season, as they lost to the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers, longtime rivals that had such mediocre seasons that each team had to scramble merely to qualify for the playoffs.

If that trend should continue in the playoffs, it bodes well for the Rangers. They have been at their sharpest against the NHL’s elite during the endless 82-game regular season.

WEAKNESS: The Rangers’ biggest weakness during the season was their pedestrian play during five-on-five skating situations. When the Rangers did not have a power play, the team had a much tougher time scoring goals.

This is worrisome because teams tend to emphasize defense during the playoffs. Therefore, the Rangers will probably not get a great deal of power plays and will be forced to score at even strength.

SUMMARY: The Rangers will flourish in the playoffs and should make it to the Finals.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the franchise goes on to win its first Stanley Cup title in 30 years.

The Knicks

The NBA is about paying dues. Rarely does a team win a championship without coming close for a few years. That’s how competitive the NBA is.

It’s also a league that favors superstars. One player alone can lead a team to a title.

The Knicks have two problems: first, the Boston Celtics stand in their path as a big obstacle to winning a championship. Second, it is unclear whether point guard Jalen Brunson, one of the best players this season in the NBA, can single-handedly guide the Knicks to a championship, as Boston’s Kayson Tatum or defending champion Denver’s Nikola Jokic can.

In the playoffs, NBA teams play much tougher team defense and are more physical than they were in the regular season.

While the Knicks boast an unusually deep team of capable players, the question will be if the squad prove to be as resourceful as it was in the just-concluded season.

What if Brunson, who emerged as one of the best scorers in the entire league, hits a slump or gets shut down by determined opponents that double-team him? Can other Knicks players step up and emerge as scoring threats? The team’s task is complicated by the absence of injured all-star Julius Randle.

Brunson must prove himself capable of taking over a game in the fourth quarter, as Miami Heat star guard Jimmy Butler has done throughout his brilliant NBA career.

Summary: The Knicks are an utter wild card. The team seems to have an equal chance of getting to the NBA Finals or disappearing in the first round. I’m saying that the Knick s will over-achieve and get to the finals. But nobody is defeating the defending champion Denver Nuggets this season.