With a 3-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday’s Game 3, the New York Rangers pull through with a last ditch effort to stay in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Prior to Round 2 and the Rangers’ spectacular Game 7 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1, spirits were high. Word was buzzing that the Rangers could possibly defeat a Southern champion, the Carolina Hurricanes, in Round 2 while riding the Round 1 high. With Igor Shesterkin at the top of his game, and the Rangers’ core clearly capable of providing game winning performances, it came as a surprise when the Rangers would lose to Carolina twice, once in overtime, and once in a disheartening 2-0 shutout. Breaking not only the Rangers’ morale, but also the team’s core.
While today’s win against the Hurricanes is a sign that not all is lost within the Rangers, with both Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider providing great game-winning goals, it can be deduced that if the Rangers make it past Round 2, they are clearly not ready to face bigger challenges.
Narrowly avoiding a sweep, which could either be a lucky win or a sign that coaching and team morale is improving, is still not truly winning. The Hurricanes, clearly a more dedicated and more skilled team than the Rangers in the playoff contention, are almost no match for the Rangers’ struggling defense. With an lazy attitude, the Rangers leave it all for goalie Igor Shesterkin to pick up the slack. The 26 year-old goalie can only handle so much pressure, and with the inevitability of his decline in performance due to exhaustion causes the Rangers to lose even faster.
There is a clear lack of direction and priority within the Rangers lineup and organization. While stellar in the regular season, and making the playoffs for the first time in 5 years, barely anyone other than die-hard fans expected the Rangers to make it past Round 1. Chris Kreider and the rest of the Rangers core lineup, acted tremendously in Round 1. With a lucky Round 1 win, it almost seemed too good to be true. But watching any of the Round 2 Rangers games today leaves you bored and wanting to watch the much more riveting Battle of Alberta instead. Not all is lost for the Rangers, as one win is still a good sign that things are possibly improving. However, the Rangers need to consolidate effort more on defensive and offensive maneuvers, as overworking their goalies hurts everyone in the long run. With this in check, the Rangers can possibly pull through Round 2 and can be more prepared to take on bigger challenges, at least with more dignity.