Rangers Postseason Primer: Part 1
With the approval of the return to play format, the Rangers have secured a spot in the qualifying round and will play the Carolina Hurricanes. We talked all about the format in our previous article along with details of the draft lottery. There is still no date for the playoffs to begin as the NHL is currently deciding which venues and hub cities will be used. Whenever that is determined, the Rangers will face off against the Hurricanes in what will be an exciting series.
For the Rangers, most of the guys on the roster have little to no playoff experience since it is composed of players in their early twenties. However, the team does have some very experienced players who have played in the big games such as Chris Kreider, Jesper Fast, Marc Staal, and of course, Henrik Lundqvist. Artemi Panarin also has a good amount of playoff experience, as he’s made the postseason in four consecutive years across two teams, the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets, and he will now extend that streak to five years with the New York Rangers. Mika Zibanejad is another player the Rangers will rely on in the series as he finished in the top five this season in goals with 41.
Most known for starting his NHL career in the playoffs, Chris Kreider is no stranger to scoring big goals at the most important moments of playoff games. In 77 playoff games Kreider has scored 23 goals and 14 assists for 37 points and has 6 game-winning goals, including an overtime winner. His best postseason run came in 2013-14 when the Rangers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. He scored 5 goals and 8 assists for 13 points in 15 games played. He saved our season in 2014-15 when he tied the game up late in Game 5 against the Capitals, who were up 3 -1 in the series. Once it went to overtime, Jesper Fast helped set up the overtime winner to extend the series.
Fast, the recipient of the Players’ Player Award for the past four seasons, has 39 games of playoff experience under his belt with 6 goals and 8 assists for 14 points. He isn’t known for his offense however, but rather his defense and his great abilities as a penalty killer. Role players have an important part on championship teams; they have to “accept and execute” as Eddie Olczyk would say.
Although his best years are behind him, Marc Staal has given his heart and soul to the Rangers throughout his entire career and especially during the playoffs. I will never forget the overtime goal he scored against the Capitals in the second round of the 2012 playoffs. With a whopping 104 career playoff games, Staal has amassed 189 blocks and 171 hits and added 19 points. Staal was relied on heavily in the playoffs; his average time on ice for his playoff career is 22:09. I’d imagine he’d be averaging less than that once this year’s playoffs begin due to the emergence of younger defensemen such as Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren.
Henrik Lundqvist. What more needs to be said about that man? You can make the argument that he single handedly carried us during all of those deep playoff runs from 2011-12 to 2016-17. He was our MVP because if you took him off the team there was no way we were beating some of the tough teams we faced like the Penguins and Capitals. It is my strong opinion that if any other goalie in the league replaced Lundqvist, even from now, they still wouldn’t be able to get the job done. That’s how good Lundqvist was in the playoffs. And the stats don’t lie. In 128 games (115 starts), Hank has a career record of 61-65, and I’m just going to say that most of those losses came because of the Rangers only scoring one goal or not enough goals. He has a stellar .922 SV% and a superb 2.28 GAA and 10 shutouts. If you haven’t guessed it by now, he’s my pick to be the starter for Game 1 against the Canes. Oh yeah, against Carolina he’s 33-12-1 with a 2.00 GAA and a .934 SV%. I think I get why the Hurricanes are scared of playing the Rangers.
Of course the regular season has nothing to do with the playoffs, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Hurricanes beat us. All of this talk about the Canes being scared to play us and the fact that we’re 4-0 against them this year makes me nervous because it’s often those times when that little stat shows up at the bottom of the screen and the next thing you know the Rangers have been swept in four games (or whatever it is who cares). Superstitions are a part of hockey, especially during the playoffs, and you can’t argue with me on that one.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will go into more detail about matchup statistics against the Carolina Hurricanes.