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.
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 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
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
Injured: Tristan Jarry (lower body, Nathan Beaulieu (lower body), Jason Zucker (lower body)
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|
The Rangers take the series in five games.
You can follow Frank Curto on Twitter at @RangerProud