Rangers holiday note on the playoffs, Vezina hopes and targets

Apr 16, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) celebrates a goal with defenseman Ryan Lindgren (55), center Barclay Goodrow (21), defenseman Adam Fox (23) and center Filip Chytil (72) during the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 16, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) celebrates a goal with defenseman Ryan Lindgren (55), center Barclay Goodrow (21), defenseman Adam Fox (23) and center Filip Chytil (72) during the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports /

First, to all of our readers, Happy Easter, Passover and Ramadan!  This year we have a confluence of all three holidays, something that happens approximately every 33 years or, in hockeyspeak, sort of the amount of time between Stanley Cup championships for our beloved New York Rangers.

With no game until Tuesday, let’s get caught up on some news and observations about the Blueshirts.  First and foremost, there is no word on the severity of the injury to Kaapo Kakko. The team got the day off so we won’t know more until Monday (and we won’t find out much).

The playoff picture

Saturday was a pretty big day for the Rangers when it comes to the playoff picture.  With their 4-0 win over Detroit, the Rangers now have 104 points with six games to play.

The Carolina Hurricanes were crushed by the Avalanche 7-4 so they are in a tie with the Blueshirts for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Although the Rangers have more regulation wins (49 to 48) the Hurricanes would finish first because they have 47 regulation and overtime wins compared to 45 for New York.

While the Hurricanes have a pretty easy schedule (Arizona, Winnipeg, Islanders, Rangers and two vs the Devils), there were some developments worth noting.  Goalie Frederik Andersen left the game after allowing seven goals on 33 shots with an undisclosed injury.  Jordan Staal also took a big hit from Cale Makar and had to leave the game.

If the Canes lose Andersen and Staal for any extended period, it will only make the Rangers prospects better.  The April 26 game between the Rangers and Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden looms large.

In the other games of note, the Penguins dropped a 2-1 decision to the Boston Bruins while the Capitals demolished the Canadiens 8-4.  The Caps closed within three points of the Penguins (94 to 97) with two games in hand.

On the injury front, the Penguins are in trouble with Tristan Jarry “week to week” with a lower body injury suffered last week against the Islanders.  That leaves them with Casey DeSmith and Louis Domingue.

The playoff options for the Rangers are many.  Here they are:

  • Rangers finish second and Pittsburgh finishes third:   Rangers will play Penguins in the first round.
  • Rangers finish second and Washington finishes third:  Rangers will play the Capitals in the first round.
  • Rangers finish first :  Rangers will play Boston, Tampa or Toronto in the first round with Boston the most likely opponent.  There is a chance that they could also play Washington or Pittsburgh.

We are assuming that the Rangers will not drop to third place.  Their magic number is four to finish ahead of Washington and three to finish ahead of Pittsburgh.

Be careful who you wish for

One word of warning to Ranger fans. It’s best to avoid wishing for any first round playoff match-up.  Sure, the Penguins look like the best option for New York, based on their regular season performance and the injury to Tristan Jarry.

Remember the 2016 playoffs?  Everyone assumed an easy series for New York against the Penguins who had lost Marc Andre Fleury to injury and then lost Matt Murray as well.  So, the Penguins were forced to use third string goalie Jeff Zatkoff in goal for two games, which they split.  Then the 21-year-old Murray came back and allowed four goal in the next three games.

Remember the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier?  The Rangers had run roughshod over the Carolina Hurricanes for years and had swept the season series, outscoring them 17-9.  We all thought it was the perfect scenario and we know how that worked out, right?

So, let’s let the chips fall where they may and trust the Blueshirts to take on and beat the team they end up facing.

The Vezina Trophy race

Don’t look now, but Igor Shesterkin may have locked up the Vezina Trophy on Saturday.  With his shutout against the Red Wings, he lowered his goals against average (GAA) to a league leading 2.05.  He still has a sizable lead with a .935 save percentate (Sv%) and he now is third in wins with 35 and third in shutouts with five.

The big news was Carolina’s Frederik Andersen being shelled for seven goals on 33 shots. That blew up his GAA to 2.17, second best and dropped his Sv% to .922, sixth overall.  Going into Saturday’s action, Andersen was Shesterkin’s prime opponent.

Other contenders include Jacob Markstrom of Calgary and Ilya Sorokin of the Islanders, but no other goalie has Shesterkin’s numbers.  Saturday was a big day for Igor.

Targets for the team

With only six games left, there are still some targets the team is aiming for.

  • The Rangers need to get nine points out of 12 to tie the franchise record for most points in a season (113).
  • The Rangers need to win four of the remaining six games to tie the franchise record for most wins in a season (53).
  • The team needs only one win to become the fifth Rangers team with 50 wins in a season.
  • If the Rangers can finish first, they will be the 10th team in franchise history to finish atop their division and the first since 2014-15.
  • The Rangers are second lowest in goals allowed per game (2.47) behind Carolina at 2.43. That would be their best finish since they were third overall lin 2014-15.  If they can finished with the lowest GAA they will join the 1939-49 and 1970-71 teams as the only Ranger teams to lead the league.  The Rangers have finished with  the second best  defensive record six times (1937, 1938, 1939, 1958, 1969 and 1973).
  • The Rangers have an unbelievable 19-2-1 record against the Atlantic Division with two more games to go versus Montreal and Boston.  Those 19 wins are tied for the most by any team against any division (Colorado 19-2-1 vs Pacific and Edmonton 19-5-0 vs Pacific).   Colorado has three games left against the Pacific so the Rangers have a chance to have the best record against teams in another NHL division.

Individual targets

Ranger players still have targets to aim for.

  • Chris Kreider needs four goals to tie Jaromir Jgr for most in franchise history.
  • Artemi Panarin needs 10 points in six games to reach the 100 point mark for the first time in his career.  He needs six points to exceed his personal best of 95 points (2019-20).
  • Artemi Panarin needs one more multi-assist game to become the all time franchise record holder.  He has 18 and is tied with Brian Leetch, Mark Messier and Jean Ratelle.
  • Mika Zibanejad has already set personal bests in assists and points.  He needs three points to reach 80 for the first time.
  • Ryan Strome needs two goals to tie his personal best of 19.
  • Barclay Goodrow has set new personal bests in goals and points.  He needs one assist to tie his career best of 18.
  • Only seven Ranger goalies have had six or more shutouts in a single season.  One more for Shesterkin and he joins that group.  He is one of ten Blueshirt netminders to reach five shutouts in a season.

Wolf Pack in freefall

If the AHL season ended today, the Hartford Wolf Pack would finish out of the playoffs as they are seventh place with a 30-31-6 record in the Atlantic Division. Sunday, March 6 the Wolf Pack were 27-16-6 and comfortably headed to the post season. Since then they have gone 3-15-1 and have only three games left in the season.

Their offense has gone south, averaging 2.15 goals per game for the last 19 games.  The defense hasn’t been great allowing 74 goals, an average of 3.89 goals per game in the same time period.

It didn’t help them that they promoted Braden Schneider and traded Tarmo Reunanen, two of their better defensemen.  Offensively, they are missing Jonny Brodzinski and Morgan Barron, two of their better forwards.

With no playoffs the last two years, the Wolf Pack were looking to make a return to the postseason for the first time since 2015.  It looks like it won’t happen.

Those two goals in the Carolina game

When Andrei Svechnikov scored that first goal in the Carolina game he was lauded for making a “smart” play in banking the puck off Shesterkin’s skate into the net. Look at it again.

If you look at the play, it’s clear that the Hurricane player didn’t do it intentionally, in fact, he was making a blind pass to the front of the net.  Shesterkin made the fatal mistake of abandoning the post because he was protecting against the very thing that Svechnikov intended to do, pass the puck.

True, Shesterkin made the mistake, but he was actually doing the right thing in looking to stop the pass while Svechnikov absolutely lucked out by making the pass too close to the net.  Considering the fact that it tied the game, that goal was the very definition of puck luck.

When K’Andre Miller scored the goal to give the Rangers the 1-0  lead against Carolina, the immediate response was “what a pass from Zibanejad!”  Look at it again.

The Rangers tweeted “perfect pass.”  Yes, it was a perfect pass, but it was intended for Chris Kreider. Remember that Zibanejad had stated that it was his intent to get Kreider that 50th goal and on this play he was clearly trying to get the puck to Kreider for the quick deflection past Frederik Andersen.  In the video you can see that Kreider was checked and he missed the puck.

The smart play was by Miller who joined the rush and was, luckily for the Rangers, in perfect position to put the puck home.

Those two goals are just proof that, so often in hockey, it’s the finish, but not the intent that is important.

Trending. Why this trade deadline is different. light