There’s no other way to say it: the New York Rangers 2022-23 season was an absolute failure.
That’s what happens when the team can’t get past the first round of the playoffs after accumulating some of the most impressive talents in franchise history.
With a Game 7 shutout loss like the one they suffered Monday night, there is plenty of blame to go around as the fanbase looks for answers as to why the season wasn’t more successful.
And we may not get that response from the franchise just yet. That being said, there are five key reasons why the Rangers had a disastrous Game 7 and first-round showing. Let’s get to each of them.
Artemi Panarin, where art thou?
For a player coming off two-straight 90-point seasons and making over $11 million, Artemi Panarin was even worse than his frustrating performance in last year’s playoffs. The Russian forward tallied just two points in seven combined games – none of them coming at even strength. The Rangers needed all hands on deck to beat a fast Devils team and they got absolutely nothing from one of their best offensive players.
The Devils neutralized Panarin in a way few teams have ever done and it was shocking to see. For the money he is making, and all the talk about how he wanted this playoffs to be different, Panarin was arguably the team’s worst player in this series.
He finished with the same amount of points as Niko Mikkola and Kaapo Kakko while playing six minutes more than either. That just can’t happen from one of your best players.
Kid Line Blanketed
A big reason why the Rangers reached the Conference Finals last season was the play of their famed Kid Line. Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko were expected to reach even high expectations after each went through a career year in points.
They were effectively neutralized against New Jersey in this series though. Chytil and Kakko both managed to put some points up, but the aggressiveness that defines their line was put in check in a major way.
Add in the fact that Lafreniere didn’t put up a single point throughout the entire series and you have a recipe for disaster here.
Lack of adjustments from Gerard Gallant
Gerard Gallant has the highest winning percentage of any Rangers coach that has coached at least two seasons. He’s been incredibly successful in getting New York to the playoffs the last two seasons but this series really exposed him for the lack of adjustments the Blueshirts made.
After jumping out to a 2-0 advantage, the Rangers struggled to adjust to the Devils’ adjustments and were basically put on the run for the rest of the series. That, and the lack of production from some of New York’s better players means that if there’s a person that will take the blame for this disaster of a playoff run, it’ll be Gallant.
When did the Islanders and Rangers switch power play strategies? After going 2/3 in a dominant Game 1 performance, the man advantage that consists of a Norris Trophy winner and several All-Stars failed to make so much as a dent throughout the series.
After their first game, the Rangers went 3-25 for the remainder of the series – a shocking result after the team has consistently been one of the best in the league. Whether it was trying to put Patrick Kane in with a group that didn’t have any “shoot-first” players or putting their best scorer, Mika Zibanejad, in a pass-first mindset, this entire man-advantage group deserves some blame as well.
Doesn’t help that they gave up a short-handed goal as well on Monday night.
Stop trying to make Patrick Kane happen
There seems to be a reason that general manager Chris Drury brought in Vladimir Tarasenko before Patrick Kane. Tarasenko’s aggressive play style fits very well with Mika Zibanejad and even Artemi Panarin during the regular season. The problem was once Kane was brought into the fold, his “pass first” mindset got in the way of what the Rangers truly needed.
The fact he was put on the first power play and struggled to get any sort of connection going with his former teammate in Panarin showed that while Tarasenko’s deal worked out in some ways, this was a gamble that just did;t work out.
And every time Gallant and the Rangers tried to force it, they were met with more frustrating results.