The New York Rangers entered this season with high expectations after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season, a six-game loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Not only did they bring back most of the same team, Rangers also added star forwards Vladimir Tarasenko And Patrick Kane ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline on March 3rd.
The Rangers (37-19-10) take on the Washington Capitals in third place in the Metropolitan Division, 10 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils. But winning the division isn’t the priority, it’s getting to the Stanley Cup finals and playing for a championship.
But can they take the next step this season and represent a stacked Eastern Conference in the cup finals?
That’s the question asked by NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen and Editor-in-Chief Bill Price in this issue of State Your Case.
roses: Rangers are developing their chemistry and it’s in a winning environment. Don’t underestimate the importance of it. They find each other, find out how their lines work. That might be the second most important thing to them going into the playoffs. The first is without question a goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin play at elite level again. He’s the single main reason Rangers will be in the Stanley Cup Finals this season. When he’s in his game, there’s arguably no better goaltender in the NHL, so it’s vital for Rangers that Shesterkin string together a string of quality starts that will carry him into the playoffs with confidence. That’s why his performance of 32 saves in Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win at the Buffalo Sabers was so important. Rangers needed every save and Shesterkin was clearly the game’s first star. He’s 4-1-0 with a 2.34 clean sheet average and a .914 save percentage in his last five games, a strong run after posting a 4.00 GAA and a .00 in six games from Feb. 6-25 .852 rescue rate had . Rangers are in good shape, third in the Metropolitan Division. They have 16 games left and Shesterkin could start 10-12 of them. If his game goes into the playoffs, Rangers have a real shot at surviving a tough Eastern Conference.
Price: Yes, Dan, the Rangers needed every one of Shesterkin’s 32 saves against the Sabers because they scored on 23 shots on average. Although you point out this chemistry, it hasn’t resulted in a consistent offensive attack. Of course, any team that makes the playoffs in the east can reach the finals, but I wonder if Rangers can make it, not only because of their lack of goals and far too often defensive weaknesses, but I also look ahead to the way in them. Can they really beat the New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes and most likely the Boston Bruins in the Conference Finals? The way they’re playing right now, I’m not sure if they’ll get past the Devils or the Hurricanes in the first round.
Video: [email protected]: Panarin’s PPG wins for Rangers in OT
roses: It’s funny how we underestimate talent. The Rangers have plenty of it. Let’s remember who they added before the deadline. They didn’t add depth to fill a lineup, they added stars. Kane and Tarasenko are just what Rangers needed all season, two right wings to fill their top-six forward group so they could keep the “kid line.” Philip Chytil, Kapo Kakko And Alexis Lafreniere together. They did it by getting two monster offensive artists. Rangers have the extra gear a playoff team needs. You can score that one more goal to make the difference. You will score it. It’s okay that they aren’t up to speed just yet. That was kind of to be expected. They haven’t scored more than three goals in the five games Kane has played with them. But, and that goes under the radar because of the offensive talent, the Rangers have not allowed more than three games in the past three. The insult will come. The players are not too good and too creative for that. The Rangers will find their chemistry and score. Watch them in that five-game homestand that begins Tuesday against the Capitals. I guarantee you we won’t end up talking about their lack of goals.
Price: Fair enough. I agree that Kane needs time to adjust and let’s face it, barring an epic meltdown, their next really big game is going to be Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first round, so they have time to put it together. They’re pointing to their depth on offense and I agree they now have four solid lines to throw at anyone, including an impressive fourth line Tyler moth, Barclay Goodrow And Jimmy Vesey. My biggest concern is their depth of defense. You have five solid defenders Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, K’Andre Miller, Ryan Lindgren And Nico Micholawith either Ben Harpur or Brad Schneider as No. 6. But Lindgren hasn’t looked like it in the past seven games due to an upper-body injury. If Rangers want to reach the cup final, I think they need those top five defenders to be healthy. They also need to take it easy in the early rounds, which they didn’t do last season when it took them seven games to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and the Hurricanes in the second round. They seemed to run out of gas in the Conference Finals, losing four straight games after taking a 2-0 lead. I agree that Shesterkin can carry them far, but I just don’t see how they played and the teams that are likely ahead of them.