This is part two of my potential first-round playoff series. Part one can be found here. This time we will be looking at the New York Rangers. The Rangers currently sit at 35-27-4 with 74 points, just four points out of a wild card spot. The Rangers have 16 games remaining in their regular season, and unfortunately for them 11 of those games are against current playoff teams. The Rangers had been playing better, going 6-4 in their last ten games but having lost three in a row. With the injury to Kreider pretty much ending his regular season it is going to take some impressive play for the Rangers to make a run, especially with their schedule, down the stretch.
The Rangers forward group is extremely top-heavy and also very very young. With top players like Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, and Pavel Buchnevich they are always dangerous to score. Panarin is in the midst of his best season in the NHL, with 90 points in just 65 games to go with an incredible plus 33 rating. Even if he can’t bring the Rangers to the playoffs he should be a serious contender for the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. Not to be outdone, Mika Zibanejad is also having an excellent season with 66 points in 53 games. Those two are the engine that drives the Ranger’s offense. The Ranger’s depth, while promising, has left plenty of room for improvement. Players like Jesper Fast, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko are the main depth forwards, and none of them have hit the 30 point mark on the season. While Chytil and Kakko both have bright futures they will need to take some strides now if they want their first taste of playoff hockey. Top talent and depth-wise the advantage goes to the Bruins for forwards.
The youth movement on the Rangers defense has been a resounding success so far this year. Players like Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox have been leading the way and playing huge roles for this team. Offseason acquisition Jacob Trouba has become the leader of the defensive unit, averaging over 22 minutes a night. Veteran Marc Stall will be leaned on heavily down the stretch, not just in ice time but also as an extra coach. As the only defenseman on the team with over 40 games of playoff experience, he knows what it takes to go on the type of run this team needs. Brendan Smith and former Bruins prospect Ryan Lindgren round out their top 6. Again the Bruins have a significant advantage in experience and overall talent when it comes to the groups of defensemen.
This is where things get a bit complicated for the Rangers, with three goalies capable of starting down the stretch. Alexandar Georgiev has seen the most action this season with a 16-14-1 record, a goals against of 2.98 and a save percentage of .912. Henrik Lundqvist has again shown signs of his age, with a record of 10-12-3 with a 3.19 goals against and a .904 save percentage. When you take into account the run by Igor Shesterkin the goalie conversation gets even more complicated. Shesterkin posted a 9-1-0 record, a goals-against of 2.23 and a .940 save percentage before being sidelined by a rib injury. Once back it would seem that Shesterkin has the starting job locked up. But experience can be a valuable thing down the stretch, especially in the playoffs. No matter who gets the starting job Rask has the edge in a playoff series with his superior talent and his playoff experience.
With the Bruins clearly being the better team I don’t see this potential series lasting long. The Bruins win this series in no more than five games. With the sweep of the regular season series already complete, a playoff sweep isn’t out of the question either. The Ranger’s downfall would be their lack of depth in the forward group. The Bruins would only need to shut down Panarin’s line and the other lines would really struggle to create offense. The Kreider injury just magnifies this issue, and might even be a big enough blow to keep them out of the playoffs. Despite an 11-4 record in February, their inexperience and lack of depth will make a playoff run very difficult.
If you liked this breakdown please keep an eye out for part three in the near future. Also, you can click the link to read part one where we look at a potential Panthers vs Bruins series. Don’t forget to check out all of our other team pages to keep up with the latest on all your favorite Boston teams.
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