We’re under two weeks out from the start of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the New York Rangers have an interesting conundrum on their hands.
With 101 points on the year, New York is seemingly pigeonholed into the third seed of the playoffs with a date with the rival Devils the most likely outcome. With five games left of the regular season, there are little incentives left for the Rangers to try and win.
So with five meaningless games on the docket, and one coming Wednesday evening against Tampa Bay, the Blueshirts could begin to sit certain players to preserve them for a grueling playoff run. New York reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season but was competing for the first overall seed in the Metro later in the year – that’s not the case in 2022-23.
New York isn’t an old hockey team. But with Patrick Kane (34), Artemi Panarin (31), Chris Kreider (31), and others all having logged thousands of career minutes, there’s an argument to be made that resting their older players would make a lot of sense to end the regular season. Kane stayed out of practice on Wednesday with a “maintenance day” designation and will wait to see if he will play Wednesday night.
But with players getting necessary rest before a tough playoff series, rust could also play a factor. With young players like Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and K’Andre Miller running the show in a lot of ways, the Rangers might just want to continue to play well to end the year and ride that momentum into the postseason. Sitting the veterans may also leave them rusty when they take on a fast team like the Devils.
It’s a debate that rages on throughout several sports. Teams that have their playoff seeding locked up are more inclined to sit their stars to preserve them for playoff runs. Others may want to continue to play hard to enhance momentum and confidence. Both schools of thought have succeeded throughout the course of history in every sport as well.
There’s also the conundrum of roster construction that the Rangers have put themselves in. With only a few thousand dollars in cap space, New York doesn’t have the ability to simply call up a rash of minor-league players.
New York may not have any option but to play their star players and hope none of them are dealt with a serious injury that could keep them out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It certainly worked last season for the Rangers, but with few options outside of playing, the team’s answer to the concern of “rest or rust” will be one that follows them over the next week.