When the Stanley Cup Playoffs roll around, winning a certain way is usually a precursor to deep runs. The New York Rangers learned this last season.
Behind top goaltending, excellent special teams, and a balance of speed and power, the Rangers were able to get to the Eastern Conference Finals by beating top offensive teams like the Hurricanes and Penguins. And while the 2022-23 season hasn’t gone as swimmingly as many could have hoped, the Blueshirts are playing their best hockey right before playoff time.
And Thursday night’s win might have been the message they needed to send before the playoffs began.
In New York’s 2-1 win over Carolina, the Blueshirts were heavily outplayed for most of the contest. The Hurricanes outshot the Rangers 30-16, won the face-off battle by a 59-40% difference, and didn’t allow a powerplay goal. By that mark, the Hurricanes should’ve won on Thursday and showed the blueprint the Rangers had last season won’t be able to continue this year.
Except somehow, the Rangers overabundance of talent still won out. New York used a dominant final third period, and an Igor Shesterkin masterclass to pull out their third win over rival Carolina this season.
The Rangers have an overwhelming amount of talent on almost every single line of forwards. Add in lethal defensive players and one of the best goaltenders on the planet and there are very few teams in hockey that can match the kind of skillset the Rangers put on the ice every night.
It also means that even when New York isn’t playing at their best, they can easily start a comeback and pull out wins. Their 14-2-5 record when tied after two periods is the best in the NHL and shows they can win in myriad of ways.
And that should make any team set to face them very nervous.
Just looking ahead to potential future playoff foes, the Rangers showed they can win where each team is strong. The Devils like to play a fast offensive game to disguise their average goaltending. New York’s addition of Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane even that out. Carolina wants to bore teams to death on the forecheck and Igor Shesterkin alone has shown he’s capable of withstanding that.
Even the Islander and Bruins, two teams that play the way that wins in the postseason, all will have to contend with the Rangers physical style and overwhelming offense.
In short, there isn’t a team in the Eastern Conference that should concern fans of the Rangers ahead of playoff time. New York has found ways to win games in different ways.
That alone is essential to becoming lethal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.