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Handy Dandy Playoff Notebook: Eight Wins Down, Eight More to Go

  • The New York Rangers are in the Eastern Conference Final, and four wins away from having an opportunity to play in the Stanley Cup Final. The Rangers found a way to win on the road vs. Carolina, got a lead early, and kept building on it. I said it before the start of the game, and I was glad that my pregame feelings mostly came to fruition.
  • The final score ended up being 6-2 as opposed to 5-0, but it played out in a somewhat similar fashion. New York was victorious, and they live to fight in another series as one of the final four teams.
  • I don’t have much more to say about the Carolina series and Game 7, partially because Joe covered that.
  • After coming back from 2-0 and 3-2 holes vs. the Hurricanes to win the series, the Rangers truly are out of the frying pan but are right back into the fire against a Lightning team that has won the last two Stanley Cups.
  • That said, while Andrei Vasilevskiy is an amazing goaltender with the ability to make this a frustrating series for the Rangers, this current iteration of the Lightning isn’t as scary as the previous two squads.
  • The absence of Brayden Point is huge, and having him in the lineup would add another high-end all-around talent to give the Rangers headaches. The top line and defense pairings certainly are very good, the second line is solid, but beyond that I feel the Rangers just faced a little more depth on paper in the series vs. Carolina.
  • I could be wrong here, but the way the Rangers have gotten better since the trade deadline, rallied through low moments of the playoffs, and manufactured wins when it matters most should make them feel good.
  • Tampa Bay is the two-time defending champs for a reason. They just swept the Florida Panthers who won the Presidents’ Trophy. They have enough star power to get the job done. That said, I don’t think a Rangers win in this series is as improbable as some might initially think.
  • I think the Evolving Hockey team had a solid preview of the series, and here’s a quick blurb which I feel is relevant.
  • “Tampa is the stronger team based on our models, but we’re a little lower on Tampa than we have been in years past. The Rangers’ skaters actually improved quite a bit from their first round matchup against the Penguins – at even strength, they controlled expected goals for 4 out of the 7 games (they did this only once against Pittsburgh). The scary thing here is that Shesterkin was actually better in this series than he was in the last.”
  • You can check the full breakdown here.
  • The regular season stats don’t matter that much come playoff time, but it is worth noting Igor Shesterkin played well against Tampa this season.
  • He played well in general this year and it’s the reason why he was a finalist for both the Hart and Vezina, and I think going up against Vasilevskiy is something Shesterkin’s looking forward to.
  • Ideally Shesterkin would like to have the same career success that his series counterpart has had, and he will get a chance to go to another level during this series.
  • This deep into the playoffs, you obviously want the Rangers to win, but there are two outcomes for this series. The favorable outcome is winning and advancing to the Cup Final as the Eastern Conference champs.
  • The second would see the Rangers fall to the current measuring stick in the league, and it would provide an opportunity to see where they ultimately fell short.
  • I completely recognize how hard it is to get to the Cup Final, and you don’t want to waste playoff runs. There’s a salary cap and tough decisions get made. But I draw back on the run the team made in 2011-2012, the moves they made afterwards, the team taking a step back the year after, and then being more aggressive which resulted in a Cup Final appearance in 2014, and a Presidents Trophy season in 2015 which saw them lose in Game 7.
  • We are going to learn a lot about this team during this series, and it has the potential to be a close and interesting series. It is very exciting that the team is still playing in June, and that is something that still is a pleasant surprise considering what transpired a year ago at the end of the season.
  • With that said, sit back and get ready to enjoy the ride, as the Rangers attempt to continue their postseason run and attempt to prevent the Lightning from competing for a three-peat.