#10 Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs have the longest streak of futility in the NHL, not winning a Stanley Cup in 54 seasons. Whose humiliating record did they break? It was the Rangers’ record for 53 seasons straight Cup-less seasons. Thank you, Toronto. What would be better than the Blueshirts putting more distance between first and second place in that negative list?
The Rangers have met the Maple Leafs eight times with New York winning five series. Two of the Blueshirts’ four Stanley Cup Final wins came against Toronto, in 1933 and 1940. Team President Brendan Shanahan is a former Ranger and an Auston Matthews-Igor Shesterkin battle is almost as tempting as McDavid-Shesterkin. Let’s not forget that John Tavares still has DNA as an Islander and that’s another reason to look forward to winning this series.
#9 Minnesota Wild
A series with the Minnesota Wild would be all about the players. Will Ryan Reaves even get to play against the team that discarded him? He has downplayed stories of ill will over his departure, but he has to harbor some resentment. Mats Zuccarello is still loved in New York, but if he plays a big role in a Final win over New York, will we be over him?
Perhaps the biggest attraction would be the battle between Kirill Kaprizov and Artemi Panarin. That will be worth watching. It’s not even determined if Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start, but he won the Vezina Trophy the year before Igor Shesterkin so a battle of netminders could be intriguing.
#8 Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes aren’t Rangers South anymore but still have Jesper Fast, Brady Skjei, Derek Stepan, and Antti Raanta on their roster. The Canes are still smarting from their seven-game loss last year and have a lot to play for.
With Andrei Svechnikov out for the year, a lot of observers are favoring the Blueshirts in this match-up despite the fact that Carolina has the better record. Be careful what you wish for. The last time that happened was the Stanley Cup Qualifier in 2020 and we all remember how that ended.
#7 Boston Bruins
You may think that the Bruins should be higher on this list and there is an argument for that due to their record-breaking season. However, there are no deep-rooted rivalries between the current players with only the history between childhood friends Charlie McAvoy and Adam Fox worth noting. Yes, Artemi Panarin threw his glove at Brad Marchand last season, but then again, everyone hates Marchand.
The Rangers have played the Bruins 10 times in the playoffs with a 3-7 record. The worst moment in this long history was when they lost to Boston in the 1972 Stanley Cup Final. However, they’ve only met once (2013) since 1973 so playoff rivalries are mostly a distant memory.
Still, the Bruins are only the fourth team in NHL history to win 60 games in a season and are on pace to set records for wins and points. Based on that alone, a series between the two teams would be epic.
#6 Pittsburgh Penguins
There’s a lot of bad blood between these teams and Jacob Trouba vs. Sidney Crosby’s part two would loom. The Rangers have won three times in eight tries against Pittsburgh and these rivals have a long and storied history. From the Adam Graves slash on Mario Lemieux to the comeback from a 3-1 deficit in 2014, inspired by Martin St. Louis, there is a lot of history between these teams.
When it comes to current players, the Rangers seem to enjoy tormenting Evgeni Malkin with Vincent Trocheck his latest nemesis. Of course, Jacob Trouba is public enemy number one in Steel City while Sidney “Cindy” Crosby is the same in New York. A Rangers win would dispel the sour grapes excuses from last season’s Penguins who were without Tristan Jarry and Crosby for most of the series.
With the Penguins’ playoff window closing, we may not see these two teams face each other for many years to come. Just as Pittsburgh started the Rangers’ descent into a rebuild with a five-game series win in 2016, it would be very sweet for the Blueshirts to do the same to their longtime rivals.