New York Rangers Vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: First Round preview

The New York Rangers are back in the playoffs for the first time in five years and will begin round one against a familiar foe in the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.

New York Rangers: 52-24-6, 110 points

Pittsburgh Penguins: 46-25-11, 103 points

Season Results: NYR 3-1-0; PIT 1-3-0

It has been five long years since the New York Rangers have played in a playoff game.  Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad are the only remaining Blueshirts who were on the team that won their last postseason game, a 4-1 against the Ottawa Senators in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round, on May 4, 2017.

Today’s team has intentions of going deep into the playoffs, but they will be battling an experienced playoff team. The Penguins are in the postseason for the 16th consecutive season and are led by three core players in Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Sydney Crosby.

Impressive Season

Coming off an impressive season coached by Gerrard Gallant, the Rangers won 52 games this season, tied for second-most in team history (1993-94). Their 110 points are the third-most in team history. Its the first time in 10 seasons and only the 10th time in the NHL history that a team had at least 50 wins and 100 points with a 50-goal scorer (Kreider was third in the NHL with 52), a 90-point scorer (Artemi Panarin had 96) and a goalie with at least 36 wins (Igor Shesterkin had 36).

The Rangers know that once the playoffs start, all of the regular season stats and accomplishments are thrown away with all 16 playoff teams getting a fresh start.

“It’s been a grind, a couple [of] long years, but definitely worth the wait to be back in the playoffs.” Looking at this group that we have, I’m super happy to be a part of that and to be a part of the solution. I’m just really excited to get this going,” Mika Zibanejead told Dan Rosen of NHL.com.

Mika also discussed how the regular season stats don’t have a say once the playoffs begin,

“We’re familiar with what they do and what kind of team that is, but now it’s 0-0, everyone starts at zero, so I don’t think [the regular season] makes a huge difference.”

The playoff expedience chart leans heavily towards the Penguins, but Andrew Copp has his own view on the value of playoff experience.

“I don’t think experience is all that it’s chalked up to be,” said Andrew Copp , who participated in practice Sunday for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury that sidelined him in three of the Rangers’ last four games of the regular season. “They’re just three really good players and their team is very good. Obviously, I think our team is very good, too. I think we’re ready for this challenge. It’s definitely going to be a great series and we’re looking forward to it.”

Gallant tried to downplay the experience factor, giving credit to the Penguins, but also stating that he is fully confident that his team can win the series,

“I think we’re as good as anybody in the playoffs and I think anybody in the playoffs can beat us,” said the coach, guaranteeing he would not make the back page. “I truly believe, can we win against Pittsburgh? Yeah, I believe that.

“Are we favored against Pittsburgh? I don’t really care about that. I think we can make a run, I don’t know if we’re going to, but I think we have as good a chance as anybody else.”

Defense Prowess

Defense is so important in the journey for a Stanely Cup.  The Rangers have four of the best in the NHL in Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Jacob Trouba, and K’Andre Miller. Their third pair unit of Patrik Nemeth and Braden Schneider are capable of playing against any unit the Pens out on the ice.

Fox lead the defense in points recording 74 with 11 goals. He also led the team with 23:54 average minutes on since per game. Trouba was second in that category avenging just over 22 minutes per game. Trouba (+25) and Miller (+23) lead the defense in plus/minus.

Ryan Lindgren had 129 hits along with 141 block shots.  The team played its best defensive games over the final 10 games of the season with 4 shutouts including three consecutive games between Apr. 19 and Apr. 23.

IGOR -IGOR -IGOR

Igor Shesterkin’s name has been mentioned in both the Hart Trophy and Vein trophy category, but he is more concerned with the first round of the playoffs.

H will make his NHL playoff debut on Tuesday night a Madison Square Garden. The Ranger’s number one goalie led the league in G.A.A 2.07 and a save percentage of .935.

Shesterkin’s .935 save percentage in 2021-22 was the third-highest in NHL history among goaltenders with a minimum of 50 appearances. Tim Thomas (2010-11) – .938 Dominik Hasek (1998-99) – .937 Igor Shesterkin (2021-22) – .935.   Shesterkin posted the highest single-season save percentage in franchise history among goaltenders with a minimum of 30 appearances. (Via NYR Stats).

He had six shoutouts while compiling a 36-13-4 record. His 36 wins were ranked sixth in the NHL.

Projected Lineups & Stats

Based on the Lines used in practice on Sunday, the Ranger’s game one lineup is predicted to be;

Chris Kreider — Mika Zibanejad — Frank Vatrano

Artemi Panarin — Ryan Strome — Andrew Copp

Alexis Lafreniere — Filip Chytil — Kaapo Kakko

Ryan Reeves– Kevin Rooney — Barclay Goodrow

Ryan Lindgren — Adam Fox

K’Andre Miller — Jacob Trouba

Patrik Nemeth — Braden Schneider

Igor Shesterkin

Alexandar Georgiev

 Injured:  Tyler Motte – Upper body injury.

Power Play Units

PP1– Fox, Zibanejad, Strome, Panarin and Kreider

PP2– Trouba, Copp, Chytil, Vatrano and Lafreniere.

Kakko should get some reps on PP2.

It appears the Penguins will be without the services of their number one goalie Tristan Jarry, UBI) for at least the first two games of the series. Their lines in practice on Sunday were;

Jake Guentzel — Sidney Crosby — Bryan Rust

Danton Heinen — Evgeni Malkin — Rickard Rakell

Brock McGinn — Jeff Carter — Kasperi Kapanen

Brian Boyle — Teddy Blueger — Evan Rodrigues

Brian Dumoulin — Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson — John Marino

Mike Matheson — Chad Ruhwedel

Casey DeSmith

Louis Domingue

Injured: Tristan Jarry (lower body, Nathan Beaulieu (lower body), Jason Zucker (lower body)

Leading Scorers

via ESPN.com

The Rangers are led by Chris Kreider’s 52 goals and Artemi Panarin’s 96 points which include 74 assists. The Pen’s leaders in goals are Jake Guentzel (40) who is also the team’s point leader with 84 (tied with Sidney Crosby).  Kris Letang leads the team with 58 assists.

Round 1 Notes

  • Artemi Panarin and Andrew Copp returned to practice and both are expected to play in Game one on Tuesday night.
  • Copp was acquired for the Winnipeg Jets at the trade deadline and has put up impressive numbers since his arrival in New York. He had 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 16 games, but missed three of the last four games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. He had been skating on a line with Panarin and Strome which will be continued in the playoffs.
  • The team is ranked 4th in the NHL on the power play (25.2%).
  • Ranked 7th on the penalty kill (82.3%).
  • Chris Kreider had 26 power-play goals, a franchise record.
  • Artemi Panarin recorded 37 power-play points (5G-32 A).
  • Rangers had a home record of 27-10-4.
  • Road record 25-14-2.
  • Rangers at home vs. Pens this season 2-0.
  • Rangers at Pittsburgh this season 1-1.
  • The Rangers had 27 comeback wins, 4th most in NHL history.

The last time the Rangers and Penguins squared off in the playoffs was in 2016 when Pittsburgh easily took the series in five games. The only player who is still on the Rangers roster from that year is Kreider.

Round 1 Schedule

Game 1 Tuesday, May 3 Pittsburgh 7:00pm MSG Network
Game 2 Thursday, May 5 Pittsburgh 7:00pm MSG Network
Game 3 Saturday, May 7 at Pittsburgh 7:00pm MSG Network
Game 4 Monday, May 9 at Pittsburgh 7:00pm MSG Network
*Game 5 Wednesday, May 11 Pittsburgh TBD MSG Network
*Game 6 Friday, May 13 at Pittsburgh TBD MSG Network
*Game 7 Sunday, May 15 Pittsburgh TBD MSG Network

Prediction

The Rangers take the series in five games.

You can follow Frank Curto on Twitter at @RangerProud

New York Rangers lose Panarin, Copp to injuries in loss to Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes clinched first place in the Metropolitan Divison on Tuesday night with a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers. The result was not nearly as damaging as the news during the second period that both Andrew Copp and Artemni Panarin would not return for the rest of the evening due to injuries.

The Rangers said Panarin suffered an upper-body injury, with Copp suffering a lower-body injury. After the loss, Gerrard Gallant said the players were kept out of the remainder of the game in an abundance of caution.

“They told me between periods, ‘Do you want them back? And I said no, I need them back next week,” said Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant, who added that the two forwards should be fine. “I hate to see it, but I’d [rather] be cautious than not have them when the games really matter.”

Gallant seemed to have no intention of sitting any of his players as the regular-season schedule concludes this week. That mindset changed following last night’s loss with the head coach admitting, “I’ll think about it tomorrow morning.”

Ended Strong

With the Rangers down two forwards and Kappo Kakko still out with an injury, the Rangers battled back from a three-goal deficit to get within one when Alexis Lafreniere scored a late third-period goal to bring the score to a 4-3 Carolina advantage, but that was as close as the Rangers could get.

News & Notes

  • Chris Kreider scored his 52nd goal of the season, tying Adam Graves (1993-94) for the second-most goals in a single season in franchise history. Kreider is the 11th player in NHL history, first since Ilya Kovalchuk in 2005-06, to have 52 or more goals and 26 or more power-play goals in a season. With the goal, Kreider surpassed Bill Cook to take sole possession of 10th place on the Ranger’s all-time goals list with 229 goals. Kreider added an assist in the third period, tying his career-high in assists with 25. Tonight was Kreider’s 22nd multi-point game of the year. Kreider has points in five-straight games (2G-4A), eight of his last 10 games (6G-5A), and in 14 of his last 18 contests (12G-9A).
  • Jacob Trouba established a career-high with his 11th goal of the season, tying Adam Fox for the most goals by a Rangers defenseman this season. His goal gave New York its 40th goal by defensemen this season. Trouba has one goal and three assists for four points in his last six games and six points (1G-5A) in his last 11 contests.
  • Mika Zibanejad assisted on Trouba’s goal, extending his point streak to five games (2G-4A). Zibanejad has points in eight of his last nine games (2G-8A) and in 15 of his most recent 19 games (5G-15A). Since April 1, Zibanejad’s 12 points are the third most in New York. Zibanejad has points in seven-straight games against Carolina (5G-7A).
  • Adam Fox notched his 62nd assist of the year and his 73rd point, tying Brad Park (1971-72) and Reijo Ruotsalainen (1984-85) for the ninth most points in a single season by a Rangers defenseman. Fox has points in four of his last five games (1G-5A). Fox’s 62 assists rank second in the NHL among defensemen while his 73 points rank fourth among defensemen.
  •   Alexis Lafrenière scored his 18th goal of the season, extending his point streak to three games (1G-2A). Lafrenière’s 18 even-strength goals are the second most in New York. He has three goals in his last five games. In addition, Lafrenière’s goal brought him to 30 points on the season (18G-12A). (via NYRPR)

Kreider Wins Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award

Chris Kreider was named the 2021-22 Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award. The Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award is presented annually to the Ranger who, as chosen by the fans, “goes above and beyond the call of duty.” The award, which has been given annually since the 1987-88 season, bears the name of devoted Blueshirt fan and New York City Police Detective Steven McDonald, who was shot and injured in the line of duty on July 12, 1986, and passed away on January 10, 2017.

The Rangers host the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.

Rangers acquire Andrew Copp, three others, as trade deadline comes to an end

General Manager Chris Drury made several transactions for the New York Rangers on Tuesday in the hope of fine-tuning the team for a deep run in the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs.

On the final day of the NHL trade deadline, Chris Drury made several trades to shore up his squad for what he and the New York Rangers hope will be a deep run in this year’s post-season.

The Rangers traded for defenseman Justin Braun from the Philadelphia Flyers, center Andrew Copp from the Winnipeg Jets, forward Nick Merkley from the San Jose Sharks, and forward Tyler Motte from the Vancouver Canaucks.  The trades will upgrade the blueline as Braun should be paired with Patrik Nemeth as the new third pair defense unit.

Copp and Motte will be added to the bottom six forming a more cohesive unit. The trades come at a time of uncertainty as head coach Gerard Gallant announced this evening that both Kappo Kakko and Kevin Rooney would be out of the lineup for the remainder of March and possibly into April.

Details of Trades

Justin Braun– Was acquired in exchange for a third-round selection in the 2023 NHL Draft.

Braun, 35, has tallied five goals and 11 assists for 16 points and a plus-3 rating in 61 games for the Flyers this season. In addition, Braun has recorded 79 hits, a team-high 114 blocked shots, and has averaged 20:02 of time on ice this year. His five goals are tied for a career-high mark he originally set in 2017-18 with San Jose.

The Minneapolis, Minnesota native has skated in 783 career NHL games split between the Flyers and Sharks, registering 33 goals and 162 assists for 195 points and a plus-25 rating. Braun is in his third season with the Flyers after coming from San Jose where he played nine years (2010-11 – 2018-19). In 2017-18 with the Sharks, Braun set career-highs in assists (28) and points (33) while ranking second on the team in hits (143), blocked shots (152), and second among Sharks defensemen in points.

The 6-2, 205 pounder has 100 games of playoff experience to his name, tallying three goals and 12 assists for 15 points. He made it past the Second Round of the playoffs in four out of five years from 2016-20. Braun helped the Sharks advance to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final in a playoff year that saw him set career-highs in games played (24), goals (2), assists (5), points (7), and plus-minus (plus-7).

Braun was originally selected by the Sharks in the seventh round, 201st overall, in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Andrew Copp– along with a sixth-round selection in the 2023 NHL Draft from the Winnipeg Jets. In exchange, the Rangers have traded forward Morgan Barron, two conditional second-round picks (conditions listed below), and a fifth-round pick in 2023.

  • Conditional second-round pick 1 (NYR’s own second-round pick in 2022; becomes a first-round pick in 2022 if the Rangers advance to the Eastern Conference Final and Copp plays in at least 50 percent of New York’s playoff games).
  • Conditional second-round pick 2 (either STL’s own second-round pick in 2022 or NYR’s own second-round pick in 2023).

Copp, 27, has registered 13 goals and 22 assists for 35 points in 56 games with the Jets this season. Among Winnipeg skaters, Copp ranks sixth in goals, seventh in assists, fifth in points, and fourth among Jets forwards in time on ice per game (19:48). Last night, Copp recorded his fourth three-point game of the season.

The Ann Arbor, Michigan native has skated in 467 career NHL games, all with Winnipeg, notching 74 goals and 110 assists for 184 points and a plus-56 rating. Copp has recorded double-digit goal totals in each of his last four seasons and 20 or more points in each of his last five seasons. In 2020-21, the 6-1, 206 pounder established career highs for goals (15), assists (24), points (39), power-play goals (6), and power-play assists (6). In the past two seasons combined, he ranks fifth on Winnipeg in points (74) and assists (46), and sixth in goals (28). His nine power-play goals since 2020-21 rank fourth on the Jets.

Nick Merkley– Was acquired from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Anthony Bitetto.

Merkley, 24, has recorded one goal and two assists for three points in nine games with the Sharks this season. With the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League (AHL), he collected 11 goals and 25 assists for 36 points in 43 games this season. On the Barracuda, he ranks tied for first in assists, tied for second in points, and sixth in goals.

The Calgary, Alberta native has skated in 41 career NHL games split between the Sharks, New Jersey Devils, and Arizona Coyotes, tallying four goals and 11 assists for 15 points.

Tyler Motte– Wasa acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a fourth-round selection in the 2023 NHL Draft.

Motte, 27, has recorded seven goals and eight assists for 15 points and a plus-3 rating in 49 games with the Canucks this season. His eight assists are a career-high and his 15 points are the second-most in a single season in his career. He ranks fifth on the Canucks with 90 hits, sixth in blocked shots (51), and tied for sixth in takeaways (27).

The St. Clair, Michigan native has skated in 260 career NHL games with the Canucks, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Chicago Blackhawks, registering 35 goals and 27 assists for 62 points. Since 2017-18, Motte leads all Canucks skaters with 555 hits. Last season, Motte led all Canucks skaters in hits (100) despite missing 32 games due to injury. In 2020-21, he was awarded the Fred J. Hume Award as “Unsung Hero” as voted by the Canucks fans and was also named the winner of the Daniel & Henrik Sedin Award for “Community Leadership”.   (Notes courtesy of NYR PR Department)

Lineup

The Rangers’ next game will be on Tuesday night vs. the New Jersey Devils at MSG.  Providing all players can get to Garden for that game a projected lineup for the forwards could look like the following;

Kreider – Zibanejad – Lafrenierefor
Panarin – Strome – Vatrano
Copp – Chytil – Goodrow
Motte – McKegg – Hunt/Reaves