In a stellar Game 7 and a thrilling overtime win by Artemi Panarin, the New York Rangers have eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins to move on to Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Rangers came out on top of Round 1 as the first team in NHL playoff history to record 3 straight comeback wins in elimination games. Defeating the 3-headed monster that is the Pittsburgh Penguins proved to be a challenge that the Rangers reveled in. While the Penguins core is dwindling, the Rangers core is only thriving. Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and Artemi Panarin were the three goal scorers in yesterday’s eliminating game, and have each produced fantastic and record breaking seasons for the Rangers. While the Penguins attempted to strengthen their game last minute with the addition of goalie Tristan Jarry, permitting Sidney Crosby to play following his head injury in Game 5, and a fierce battle, their downfall lay in the the Rangers’ penalty kill, Chris Kreider, and Igor Shesterkin.
The New York Rangers have not only great offensive play but utilized penalties to their advantage by outscoring the Penguins on the powerplay and broke up the Penguins lineup piece by piece. While the Penguins nearly dominated the Rangers with overtime stamina, the Rangers pulled through in Game 7 with an impressive performance from the top line. Igor Shesterkin brought massive saves and defended the net in one of his best performances this season, and proved himself to be a solid Vezina candidate. Mika Zibanejad provided the assist on Chris Kreider’s top shelf first period goal, giving the Rangers a lead and a boost in morale. Then scoring a slapshot goal himself in the third period, with an assist from Andrew Copp, tying the game 3-3. These electrifying goals only set the stage for the game winner by 30 year-old Russian left winger Artemi Panarin, who sniped the puck through a crowded Penguins defense to kill the penalty in overtime. Ending the game 4-3, and winning the series for the Rangers.
Out of all of these factors, the most impressive one is none other than Chris Kreider. Drafted to the Rangers 19th overall in the first round in 2009, it is anyone’s guess why they haven’t made the Massachusetts born 31 year-old left winger captain yet. Whether it is the Rangers’ refusal to establish a clear hierarchy, or they simply don’t think Kreider could handle the pressure, it is clear that following his playoffs and regular season performance he is more capable of the role than any other Rangers player. With his outstanding chemistry with other players, especially Mika Zibanejad, and his career high 2021-22 regular season where he scored 52 goals and 81 points, every year sees Chris Kreider solidifying himself as a highly important and influential player in the Rangers lineup. Thus, with great goaltending, skillful powerplays, and fantastic putout by Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and Artemi Panarin, the Rangers face the Carolina Hurricanes in a high energy Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Which will pose new challenges, but are ones that I believe the Rangers have the strength to overcome and learn from.