The New York Rangers are the NHL’s regular season champions as they clinched the President’s Trophy, awarded to the team that finishes the regular season with the best overall record with a 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
This is the third time that the Rangers have won the trophy since it was introduced to the league in the 1985-1986 season and the first time for the Rangers in two decades.
The Rangers finished first overall in the NHL regular season in the 1991-1992 and 1993-1994 seasons to claim the President’s Trophy. They won the Stanley Cup the last time they finished first in the league standings 21 years ago.
The Rangers currently have 111 points in the standings and a 52-21-7 record with two games left in the regular season.
Heading into Wednesday night's action, the Rangers had a four point lead over the Anaheim Ducks for first in the league, a five point lead over the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference and a 12 point lead over the Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division.
While the Rangers were expected to have regular season success this season after reaching the Stanley Cup Finals last season, claiming the President’s Trophy might have seemed a stretch considering the way the season started for New York.
The Rangers had a mediocre start to the season, posting an 11-11-0 record before Thanksgiving. However, they found their groove and have gone 41-10-7 since.
The Rangers winning ways were expected to trail off when starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was sidelined with a vascular injury in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 31.
Lundqvist played in the Rangers next game, but missed the team’s next 25 games. 27-year-old Cam Talbot was forced into the starting role in Lundqvist’s absence, but only had one of prior year of NHL experience as Lundqvist’s backup.
On Feb. 4, when Talbot started against the Bruins the Rangers were tied with the Washington Capitals for third in the Metropolitan Division with 60 points.
Talbot started 23 out of the next 25 games, posting a 16-4-3 record to lift the Rangers to the top of the Eastern Conference Standings.
Rookie Mackenzie Skapski earned his first two career wins in two games against the Buffalo Sabers on Feb. 20 and March 14. He posted his first career shutout in his second career start as the Rangers blanked the Sabers 2-0.
Talbot started in the Rangers win Tuesday against the Devils to clinch the President’s Trophy and his earn his 21st win of the season.
It was likely Talbot’s last start of an impressive season as Lundqvist is expected to start the Rangers final two games against the Ottawa Senators today and the Capitals on Saturday and will carry the workload in the playoffs.
Lundqvist has been sharp since his return from injury. After giving up four goals in a loss in his return on March 28, Lundqvist won his next four games and has a 29-12-3 record, .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average this season.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault won the third President’s trophy of his career and is the second coach in NHL history to do so. Before coming to New York, Vigneault spent seven seasons in Vancouver, winning the President’s Trophy back-to-back in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.