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Handy Dandy Playoff Notebook: Just Win, Baby!

  • I’ll get right to the point. The New York Rangers played a frustrating Game 5, while the Carolina Hurricanes also had their best game of the series, and if the Blueshirts lose tonight the season is over.
  • The Rangers have played very well at home during these playoffs, and the Hurricanes haven’t won a game on the road yet, so logic would dictate that things will continue as they have for both sides resulting in a Rangers win tonight and a winner-take-all Game 7 at PNC Arena on Monday.
  • But there are no guarantees of that, as one of the reasons Carolina looked as good as they did in Game 5 was because of their surgical ability to take advantage of a Rangers team that looked pretty lethargic. If that effort rolls over into tonight’s game, that will be a problem for New York.
  • It is understandable given the amount of games the team has played this year, and the relative inexperience of a good portion of the roster, but that’s not an excuse anyone wants to hear at this time of year.
  • With St. Louis being eliminated on Friday vs. the Colorado Avalanche, the Rangers are one of five teams left in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. I don’t think anyone expected this to be the case during the offseason, and no matter the outcome of tonight’s game, the season will have been a big success.
  • If anything this playoff run in progress has provided the front office an opportunity to evaluate the roster to determine what the strengths and weaknesses are, and the 2022-23 Rangers should be better equipped to make a bona fide Stanley Cup run.
  • With that having been said, the season isn’t over yet. I know the sentiment wasn’t overly positive on Twitter, but that was very much the case when the team went down 3-1 to Pittsburgh, and 2-0 to Carolina just a scant few games ago. The Hurricanes were the best team in the division this year, and one of the best in the NHL.
  • The Rangers almost stole Game 1 on the road, and that loss still stings a lot. But it is one example of the team showing it was almost capable of getting the best of Carolina at PNC Arena. It would have been great to win Game 5, and I admit that I was confident in the team’s chances, but winning three straight vs. the Hurricanes was going to be tough.
  • The good news for the Rangers is they’ve already won two in a row vs. the Canes, and that’s exactly what they’ll have to do now. Thankfully one of those games in on home ice, and that would leave an aforementioned winner-take-all Game 7.
  • History has shown us that weird shit can happen during those games, and based on what we’ve seen from this team I can’t imagine if they won Game 6 that they’d look as bad in Game 7 as they did in Game 5.
  • And I say this as someone who vividly remembers the Rangers getting shutout vs. Tampa at MSG in Game 5 in 2015, going berserk at Amalie Arena in Game 6, and then getting shutout a second time on home ice in Game 7.
  • The series has been closer than many of the experts thought, and there is still time for the Rangers to make something happen. It will require the top players to step up, something that Carolina finally saw a bit of in Game 5, and my hope is that some of the adjustments we saw at times during Game 5 can remain.
  • With their backs against the wall, there’s no excuse for Gerard Gallant not to shorten his bench to give his top players more opportunities to make an impact. I said this during the Pittsburgh series, and I think it still applies now.
  • As for the defense, it isn’t going to happen, but I don’t know how much more I can take from the pairing of Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller. For a pairing that led the NHL in time on ice together in the regular season, there’s been way too many situations of miscommunication during these playoffs.
  • I’m more fed up with Trouba than I am Miller, and it’s a major bummer considering how much better Trouba was during this regular season vs. last year.
  • But as I said earlier, the team overachieved as a whole this year, and has gone further than expected. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but it certainly would stink to see them waste an exceptional goaltending performance this deep into the playoffs when anything can happen in the final two rounds.
  • That said... I am feeling positive about Game 6. I want to believe that the Rangers didn’t come this far just to go this far, and they are making life more difficult for themselves to fully lean into the comeback kids narrative.
  • Rangers in 7.