For the Rangers, tonight marks the start of the NHL Playoffs. For the Knicks, tonight marks the first day of the offseason. Let’s delve into both.
The Rangers have won eight playoff series over the last four seasons, but they haven’t hoisted a Stanley Cup. That ties a “record’ held by the Bruins of the late 1980’s for most playoff series wins without a Cup- ugh. They absolutely can win this year, but they made it more difficult by beating Detroit on Saturday. If they had lost that game, they would have opened the playoffs in Florida and assuming a victory there, played the winner of the Detroit-Tampa series. Now they have to beat the Penguins in Round 1 and probably face the best team in the NHL, Washington, in Round 2.
It won’t be easy, but it comes down to a simple formula for them. Lundqvist, Lundqvist, and more Lundqvist. If he is on top of his game, the Rangers will be a very tough team to play. If he isn’t, if he plays like he has the past few weeks, this will be a very quick playoff appearance.
Then there are the Knicks and we can actually look at their season with some good feelings. For one, they weren’t the disaster they were last year. 32-50 is nothing to brag about, but when it comes on the heels of a 17-65 season it represents progress. Two, Kristaps Porzingas looks like a cornerstone player.
They are going to need more and that’s where Phil Jackson is going to have to earn his paycheck. I think that the easiest route to respectability is trading Carmelo for a lottery pick this year, stinking next year for another lottery pick, and using your major cap room after the 2016-17 season to round out the roster. I can’t tell what the team is going to do. Part of me thinks Anthony is going to force his way out of here, but part of me suspects that the Knicks won’t part with him because he gives them the illusion of competitiveness. I hope I am wrong about that because Anthony is on the decline and by the time Porzingas is all that he can be, Anthony will be a role player at best.