The New York Rangers and the rest of the National Hockey League have wrapped up their regular seasons and are all geared up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After much back-and-forth, the Rangers have finally found out who their first-round opponent will be, and it is the cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils.
With a regular season record of 47-22-13 for 107 points, they finish in third place in the Metropolitan Division. Behind the aforementioned Devils, the Metropolitan Division Champions, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Rangers have a tough road ahead. Speaking of the road, the Blueshirts open up this first-round series on the road in Newark on Tuesday night.
Expect The Unexpected
This Hudson River Rivalry has shown that you cannot expect the outcome of this first-round series. All Playoff series have a different feeling, but this one hits differently. Over the past 40 years, the Rangers and Devils have met in the playoffs on six occasions. But, it has been over a decade since the last time these two faced each other, with the last time being in 2012 when this infamous moment happened. Rangers fans, look away.
These games are going to come down to the wire once again this season. Each win will be hard-fought and earned. The Rangers couldn’t win in the season series and were 1-2-1 against the Devils. Three of the four matchups were decided within one goal, and the other one was a 5-3 loss.
Stars To Watch For
Both of these teams are loaded with top-tier talent.
The Rangers and Devils both acquired some serious firepower at the trade deadline. The Devils got Timo Meier, and the Rangers got Vladimir Tarsenko and Patrick Kane. All the stars are aligning on Broadway.
On the Rangers side, there is, of course, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, Artemi Panarin, and Igor Shesterkin. On the Devils side, there is Dougie Hamilton, Nico Hischeir, Jesper Bratt, and Dawson Mercer. That is some serious firepower on both sides of the ice.
The storylines within this series are intense. Some of these can sound like monologues to blockbuster movies.
It is the inevitable first playoff meeting between Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, the first and second overall picks of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. We all knew it would happen eventually, but now that it is here, expect both of these two to try and one-up the other. Hughes really turned up the heat this season with career-highs with 43 goals and 56 assists for 99 points. Of course, that is all on first-line minutes, both on 5-on-5 and with the man-advantage. Kakko has had a much different role, and he is playing alongside his fellow “Kids”. He has also had a career year, but not anywhere close to that of Hughes. With 18 goals and 22 assists, he set personal bests in both of those categories.
The Rangers are also looking for revenge. After losing in 2012 in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Devils, the Rangers want to get one back against the Devils. That year could have been “the one” for Henrik Lundqvist to win a Stanley Cup and could have been the one to break this nearly 30-year curse of “1994”. This series in 2023 could be retribution and revival for the Blueshirts, as they have a seriously tough road ahead of them if they want to make it to the final matchup of the year.