Three Keys: Rangers look to even Eastern Conference Finals with Panthers

Alexis Lafrenière battles against Matthew Tkachuk during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers. Brad Penner/ USA Today Sports

After the New York Rangers 3-0 loss to the Florida Panthers in the opener of the Eastern Conference Finals, it was clear better execution was needed.

Game 1 showcased solid defense from both sides; the Rangers recognize that being shut out on 23 shots, even if they did generate many high-danger chances, isn’t acceptable against a team like Florida, which thrives in low-scoring games. The potential inclusion of Matt Rempe in the lineup is generating buzz. Still, the focus should be on addressing more significant issues and finding solutions if Blueshirts Nation wants their heroes to level the series in Game 2 on Friday.

Executing Breakouts:

One big reason the Rangers couldn’t light the lamp in Game 1 was their struggle to maintain consistent offensive pressure.

Florida’s aggressive forecheck made life challenging for the Blueshirts, disrupting their attempts to break out of their zone smoothly. It led to several turnovers and difficulties getting the puck up to the forwards. As a result, the Rangers had trouble sustaining attacks and controlling the play for extended periods.

“They have a lot of speed on their team,” defenseman K’Andre Miller said. “Limiting their speed throughout the neutral zone, trying to get hold-ups, and trying to give us a little bit more time breaking the puck out of the D zone (are the keys). I think we can talk a little bit more. Obviously, when teams are coming that hard and pressuring you with that type of energy, I think it’s about breaking down their forecheck with talking, puck-moving, and just trying to be a little bit firmer. Our execution can be a little bit better coming out of the D zone, so I think using our voices a little bit more and communicating can be a big portion of that.”

For Game 2, I expect the Rangers to focus on improving their breakouts. They’ll likely enhance communication between defensemen and forwards to ensure smoother transitions out of their zone. 

They also might adjust their positioning to provide better support for the player carrying the puck, making it harder for the Panthers to disrupt their breakout attempts.

Pressure Party:

In Game 1, the Rangers faced a tough challenge in getting their defensemen involved in the action, primarily due to their struggles in maintaining possession against Florida’s relentless defensive style. They’ll need a more direct approach, emphasizing quick passes and assertive battles for puck control. Unfortunately, they found themselves coming up short in those 50/50 puck battles more often than not on Wednesday.

While the Rangers aim to avoid relying solely on dumping and chasing, they also need to recognize the right moments for those plays compared to controlled zone entries. The balancing act has been a longstanding focus for the group throughout the season, and it’s an area where the reigning NHL runner-ups in the Panthers excel.

To spark more offense, the Rangers must prioritize gaining possession through turnovers and seizing high-danger scoring chances. They must get traffic in front of Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and drawing penalties to grant their dynamic power-play unit additional scoring opportunities.


Ultimately, game 1 boiled down to the Panthers executing on their chances, and the Rangers didn’t. Matthew Tkachuk scored off the rush, Carter Verhagage benefited from Alexis Lafreniere’s own goal, and Sam Bennett hit the empty net. Meanwhile, Braden Schneider hit the post on a breakaway, Alex Wennberg had an open net and was stopped by Bobrovsky, and Lafreniere hit the crossbar in the slot. 

Despite New York’s struggles, the series opener was a low-event affair and was up for grabs at the end. Bobrovsky wasn’t tested a bunch but made the most of his workload to the tune of a 23-save shutout with +2.69 goals saved above expected. Meanwhile, Igor Shesterkin allowed two he would like to have back. The Rangers have been a team all year who’ve relied on being opportunistic. That mentality helped them win the President’s trophy, sweep the upstart Washington Capitals, and dispatch the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup, the Carolina Hurricanes. The opener was a reminder of what happens when you don’t pounce on your chances. So, to even the score, the Rangers must execute, or it’s 0-2 going to South Beach and halfway to an early Summer. 

In this week's episode we talk about Schnieder, Lindgren's future with NYR, and with Drury seemingly done with off seaon moves the outlook of this team.How to support us and our sponsors:Columbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITRThanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Running it Back
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  4. Guest Colin Stephenson
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