NHL Playoffs: Who Will NY Rangers Play for the Stanley Cup?

NEW YORK, NY – Tonight is the last game of the season for most NHL teams and most playoff match-ups are set. The Rangers take on the Capitals at The Garden tonight. If Washington wins and the Penguins lose to the Blue Jackets, then NY will play the Caps in the opening round. If the Rangers or Pens win tonight then the Rangers will host Pittsburgh to open the playoffs. The Blueshirts are getting healthier at the right time. Kaapo Kakko was back from injury for the Rangers’ Wednesday night loss to the Canadiens. Artemi Panarin and Andrew Copp both missed the Habs game but could be back tonight. Head Coach Gerard Gallant indicated that if Panarin and Copp aren’t back tonight, then they will definitely be back for the start of the playoffs next week.

The Broadway Blues are looking good heading into the playoffs, despite three straight losses. They’ve been under strength with some key players out through injury or just getting some rest before the playoff push. But they should be able to roll four full-strength lines in the playoffs. Playoff series often come down to the bottom six forwards as the top two lines often cancel each other out. With their trade deadline acquisitions, they’ve got as solid a bottom six as anyone else.

Puck Heads

They’ve also got the best goalie in the league right now. Igor Shesterkin has had a stellar season and is a favorite to win the Vezina Trophy. He may also get some votes for the Hart Trophy but willing that award is a stretch for a net-minder. Shesterkin kept the Rangers in a lot of games in which they weren’t playing particularly well. Every team is prone to the bad shift or unlucky bounce that leads to a scoring chance for the opposing team. Having a goalie like Igor in net who is usually good for the save makes a world of difference. Leading the lines for the Rangers are Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin. Kreider had 52 goals on the season, which is good for second on the Rangers all-time single season scoring list. He’d need two goals tonight to match Jaromir Jagr’s 54-goal tally in 2005-06.  Panarin has 96 points on the season, which is a career high for the Bread Man. He has 22 goals to go along with his 74 helpers.  I’m optimistic about the Rangers this postseason but it won’t be an easy road.

If the Rangers get past the Penguins or Capitals, they’ll likely face a Carolina Hurricanes team that has given them fits all season. The Canes beat the Rangers Tuesday night to consolidate first place in the Metropolitan Division. If, by chance, the Rangers were to get past the Hurricanes, they would still have the Atlantic Division Champions to get through. The likely opponent would be the Florida Panthers who won the President’s Trophy had amassed over 120 points on the season. But the Leafs, Lightning, and Bruins would all be tough opponents as well. The East has been extremely tough this year and the Stanley Cup winner will likely come from the Eastern Conference.  But it’s still all to play for. Anything can happen in a 7-game series. We’ll see how it all plays out starting next week.

Drop the gloves and take your best shot below and come back tomorrow for Short Matt, who’ll be Indianapolis calling a Major League Rugby game between LA and Atlanta. Go figure.

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About Different Matt 269 Articles
Different Matt is our cunning Cornell grad/rugby player. "Diff" joined us just after the switch from being "Mets only" to an all-sports stop. He's a Yankee fan; thus he was "different." Aside from the Yanks, he's a diehard NY Giants, NY Rangers and NY Knicks fan. He also likes long walks on the beach and cappuccinos and nearly died in Las Vegas.