#5 Los Angeles Kings
2014. That’s why the Los Angeles Kings make the top five. Chris Kreider may be the only Ranger left from the 2014 team that made it to the Final, but Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are still playing in LaLa Land and it’s unfortunate that the Kings dumped Jonathan Quick at the deadline. Since these two teams could only meet in the Final this season, it would be hard to imagine anything more frustrating than the Kings winning the Cup against New York again. Ugh.
If the hockey gods hate the Rangers, video replay would disallow a key New York goal for goaltender interference, a call that didn’t exist in 2014. There was no video replay when Dwight King fell on Henrik Lundqvist and prevented him from making a key save. The goal pulled the Kings to within a goal in the third period of Game Two and gave them momentum for an overtime win.
For more intrigue, this would be a match-up between the two top picks in the 2020 Entry Draft Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield. Ranger fans shouldn’t waste any time looking for Lias Andersson. He has played only one game in L.A. before clearing waivers and spending the rest of the season in the AHL.
#4 Colorado Avalanche
It would be enough for the Rangers to dethrone the defending Stanley Cup Champions, but throw in the fact that their top goalie is Alexandar Georgiev and a series against the Avs would be a doozy. Igor Shesterkin is 2-0-1 versus Colorado with a 1.91 Goals Against Average (GAA) and a .949 Save Percentage (Sv%). Meanwhile, Georgiev is 1-0-1 with a 1.38 GAA and a .960 Sv% against his former team.
Stir in the Adam Fox- Cale Makar rivalry and a Final series against Colorado would be one for the ages. The last two Norris Trophy winners have their advocates, but a series win would go a long way toward cementing Fox as the league’s best blueliner.
The two teams have never met in the playoffs though the Rangers won in 1995 in six games when the Avalanche were known as the Quebec Nordiques.
#3 Tampa Bay Lightning
When it comes to the Tampa Bay Lightning there is one word. Revenge. Twice, the Lightning has thwarted the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals, preventing a trip to the championship series. In 2015 it was a seventh-game loss by the President’s Trophy-winning Rangers team that was crippled by injuries to Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello. While that hurt more, dropping four straight after taking a 2-0 lead last year was a bitter pill.
Winning a third meeting would be a chance for redemption by Artemi Panarin. It would be Igor Shesterkin replacing Andrei Vasilevskiy as the best clutch goalie in the NHL. It would reinforce Adam Fox as the top defenseman in the East over Victor Hedman. For fans, it would erase some bitter memories. For the Rangers, it would dethrone the team that has won the East three straight seasons.