Two weeks ago, fans of the New York Rangers were feeling pretty good. Their team just beat the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the NHL playoffs and were preparing to face off against the extremely beatable Ottawa Senators in the second round. It looked like Madison Square Garden would be hosting another Eastern Conference Final.
And then the Rangers fell apart. On Tuesday night, they were ground into powder for three sloppy periods and ultimately saw their Stanley Cup dreams vanish into thin air upon being eliminated in Game 6. It was an incredibly disappointing end of the season for a team that could’ve done so much more.
I previously wrote that the New York Rangers had the potential to win this year’s Stanley Cup. They were the fourth-highest scoring team in the NHL this past season with a deep roster of players able to put the puck in the net. And it doesn’t hurt that Henrik Lundqvist is holding down the fort in between the pipes. And after beating the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs, it looked like the Rangers were headed down an easy path to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Honestly, who could’ve predicted that Ottawa, of all teams, would beat the Blueshirts? Let’s be honest: The Senators are not that good of a team. Despite finishing second in the Atlantic Division, they were 22nd in the NHL in scoring, 23rd in power play percentage and 22nd in penalty kill during the regular season. Defensemen Erik Karlsson is the group’s only true star. Even worse, they were the only team to make the playoffs with a negative goal differential. Ironically enough, the Rangers also outscored the Senators in the series, 20-19.
This isn’t to say this is one of the greatest upsets in NHL history — far from it. But it doesn’t take the sting away that turned MSG into Madison Silent Garden.
When we look back at the 2016-17 Rangers, they were a very solid team, but also incredibly streaky. They started the season by winning 13 of their first 17 games, but then fell back into a normal pace. After losing 6 out of 11 games in the month of January, they seemed to turn it around by winning their first six games of February. Unfortunately, they limped into the postseason by going 8-9-4 the final 21 games of the season. They finished the year with 102 points, but there’s definitely a reason they were only the fourth best team in their division. Quite the roller coaster, eh?
The biggest hole on the team was its lack of a major star on the roster, which was a huge problem considering that nearly every other championship contender has an A-list player. Just within the division, the Rangers are forced to go up against Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and John Tavares. And this past season, New York’s top scorer was Mats Zuccarello. Sure, he’s really good. But he’s nowhere near the level of a Patrick Kane, Connor McDavid, Ovechkin or Crosby.
So who were the 2017 New York Rangers? Were they a team that finished with over 100 points and eliminated the division-winning Montreal Canadiens? Or were they a team that finished fourth in their division and were eliminated by the only team to make the playoffs with a negative goal differential? Unfortunately, the answer is both, and they’ll need to make some changes this offseason to change that.
Back to the drawing board.
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