The New York Rangers have clinched their spot in the 2022-23 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their opposition is yet to be determined, but all signs point to it being the cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils.
What a series that will be.
Some different teams in this postseason represent the Eastern Conference compared to last. With a few games left in the season, the entire playoff picture is not completely clear, but most of the teams are locked up.
The question is, how much different will this season be compared to last year’s magical run for the Rangers? Will the new additions be enough to push them over the top? Can they go toe-to-toe with some different opponents from a year ago? Can they make it past the Eastern Conference Finals and into the Stanley Cup Final?
Let’s talk about it.
Entering the 2022-23 Playoffs, The Rangers have a lot of new faces on their roster. Highlighted by Patrick Kane, the Rangers made some big deals at the trade deadline in hopes of pushing this team over the top. Did they do enough?
The blockbuster of the trade deadline was the deal for Kane. The Rangers grabbed one of the United States’ greatest goal scorers from the Chicago Blackhawks for a conditional 2nd-round pick and a 4th-round pick in June’s draft. Since joining the Rangers, he has had five goals and five assists in 16 games.
Alongside Kane, the Rangers also acquired Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola from the St. Louis Blues for Sammy Blais and Hunter Skinner, along with a conditional first-round pick. What a steal for the Rangers, as they gained an exceptional goal scorer and a sturdy defenseman that was so desperately needed with injuries during this season.
Another new face this time around. Oh wait, he was around for last season’s run as well. Tyler Motte, who signed with Ottowa during the offseason, was traded back to the Rangers for forward Julien Gauthier and a conditional 7th-round pick. He has been electric for the Blueshirts since returning, with five goals and nine assists in 21 games since the trade.
Last season, the Rangers had to run the gauntlet against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals. This season, Pittsburgh is on the verge of not making it into the postseason for the first time in 16 seasons. Carolina, who sits atop the Metropolitan Division, will likely meet the winner of the Ranger’s first round of games.
That likely first-round opponent for the Rangers should be the New Jersey Devils, who sit in the second position of the Metropolitan Division. In the season series with the rivals from Newark, the Rangers are 1-2-1 in the four-game stint. If this series comes to fruition, we could be in for a very physical set of games.
Of course, the Tampa Bay Lightning have locked themselves into the Stanley Cup Playoffs once again, and it could be destiny for both teams to run it back into the Eastern Conference Finals. But, it is more unlikely that the Lightning will make it past Boston than it is for the Rangers to get past Carolina.
Stanley Cup Final Bound?
Every year, the Rangers hope this team can be a Stanley Cup contender. They believe that there is no such thing as a curse and that 1994 wasn’t that long ago. Could this finally be the year?
The tools are there, especially with those new additions. Kane will be the biggest change from last season’s playoff run, even if he doesn’t get on the scoresheet every night. His presence is distracting enough for opposing teams that his linemates will get more room to generate chances. But keep your eye on Tarasenko, and he excelled in the playoffs with the Blues during their 2018-19 championship season.
The path is laid out in front of them, at least for the Eastern Conference, as the West is much wilder. The toughest test that lays in front of them in the East would have to be Boston, who have been juggernauts all season long. The B’s have shown no sign of slowing down and are firing on all cylinders going into playoff time.
After seeing what happened last season, with that dramatic and magical run unfolding, you cannot deny that the Rangers have a legitimate chance to make the Stanley Cup Final.