The Rangers Are At A Crossroads... Again

The Rangers Are At A Crossroads... Again

For the second consecutive year, the New York Rangers season has come to an end after falling short in a series they led 2-0. Last year up 2-0, New York was a goal post away from a 3-0 series lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final; the Rangers then lost four straight. This year's end result is the same -- albeit with an additional game -- but the manner in which the Rangers went out puts the team at a crossroads in how they will proceed in order to be in a position to compete for a title in a division and conference that is improving and getting younger.

This season the Rangers took Games 1 and 2, dropped Games 3, 4, and 5, rallied in Game 6 to even things up before they were embarrassed in Game 7. A lot went right for the Rangers 12 months ago, as the team reached the Eastern Conference Final. It's possible too much went right, leading to the organization into a false sense of security of how ready they were to compete for a championship.

While there are positives for the team having gone through that experience, the expectations for this group would have been different had they not overcame a 3-1 series hole against Pittsburgh last April. After outlasting Carolina and surrendering a 2-0 series lead against the two-time champions in Tampa, expectations really changed.

Following that success, the thought was last year's run would provide valuable experience to this young core. The team would make sensible upgrades in other areas in its line, and they'd ice a group in a position to make deadline moves to push all-in for a Stanley Cup.

But the Rangers, despite winning the first two games in Newark, squandered a massive opportunity to take advantage of a playoff field that does not include Boston or Tampa Bay, as well as a depleted Carolina squad. Out west, the defending champion Colorado Avalanche were also bounced in Round 1, leaving the door wide open on both sides of the bracket.

That's a big ooof, especially when you consider the talent this roster had on paper, and what those player didn't do in the playoffs.

Despite going to Game 7, the Rangers failed the way they did in the regular season. They were a poor team at 5v5. They lived and died by the power play. They were dragged and simultaneously kept in the fight by their all-world goaltender. A slow team that was unable to get to the high danger areas and mostly kept to the outside.

Igor stole Game 6. It's a shock the Rangers didn't go out in the same fashion they did last year.

And Game 7.

The time will come for more drilled down analysis, including who should stay and go once Gerard Gallant's fate is decided.

But for now, the Rangers' season is over.

The New York Knicks, James Dolan's other team, is currently in the second round of the playoffs. If I told you in the offseason that both teams would make the playoffs this year but only one would make it beyond one round, the odds of you picking the Knicks would be low. And I think that's something Dolan will think about, especially when you consider he's taken more of a focus on the team since the dismissal of John Davidson and Jeff Gorton in 2021.

As for changes and what that exactly looks like... I don't know. But I do know this team needs better skaters, players who can exit the zone and enter the zone with their feet moving as opposed to trying to weave intricate passes each and every time. They need those who are willing and able to get to the high-traffic areas of the ice.

Don't get me wrong, there's A LOT to like about this team. Many of the key pieces are in place, but there are elements missing that they need to get in order to compete, and they need to be better balanced overall if they want to make some serious noise.