My Takeaways from the Rangers’ Sweep of the Capitals

Washington is not the most challenging of opponents, but the Rangers did what was expected of them. Here are a few things that I saw that indicate that the Rangers are ready for a tougher matchup in Round 2.
The handshake line after the Rangers sweep the Washington Capitals
The handshake line after the Rangers sweep the Washington Capitals / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

My Takeaways from the Rangers’ Sweep of the Capitals

No Stanley Playoffs series is “easy.” That said, the New York Rangers made it look so during their sweep of the Washington Capitals in round one of their quest for Lord Stanley’s hallowed silver chalice. The Caps, who were the team with the lowest point total in this year’s postseason, looked completely outmatched by the Rangers and their unquestionably superior talent. Igor Shesterkin stood on his head throughout the series, Vincent Trocheck led a potent and consistent offensive attack, and New York received contributions from up and down the lineup.

Even though the Rangers were expected to win this series handily, it still feels good to shake off last year’s disappointing first round loss. At the end of the day, playoff hockey is playoff hockey and Peter Laviolette’s team looked more than prepared for it. Before leaving this series behind, I had a few positive takeaways that I feel are indicators that this Rangers team is ready to take on the Carolina Hurricanes this this afternoon.

Igor Shesterkin
Igor Shesterkin is locked in / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The Rangers are focused

Anyone who thinks the Rangers are not a legit contender this year all said the same thing this week: “The Capitals are terrible. The Rangers were expected to win. This doesn’t mean they are contenders.” I’m not going to contest the first two of those statements, but I will certainly push back on the third. Sure, the Rangers were expected to win easily but that does not mean it was given. Look no further than last year’s Presidents’ trophy winners in the Boston Bruins. Igor and his defensive sentries held the Caps to just seven goals across the four games and held Alex Ovechkin without a point (Side note: I forgot that Vegas needed just seven goals in a four game sweep of the Kings in 2018…crazy).

Beyond that, the Rangers felt in control for most of the series. Outside of a few dumb penalties, they controlled play, kept the Capitals rush chances to a minimum, and did not get flustered when Tom Wilson and TJ Oshie tried to stir things up. They responded in big moments as well, ensuring that Washington never held momentum long. The biggest of these moments came in game three.

After John Carlson floated a puck past Shesterkin from just inside the blue line to electrify the home crowd, Chris Kreider scored just 34 seconds later to quiet them back down. Last season, this goal might’ve destroyed the team’s confidence. This year, the Blueshirts have a level of grit and focus that is necessary for a playoff run.

K'Andre Miller
K'Andre Miller heads to the bench first after his shorthanded goal in Game 2 / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

K’Andre Miller is ready for the challenge

The Rangers as a whole were impressive defensively, but K’Andre Miller really stood out to me. Being paired with Braden Schneider has helped him a lot, as Miller looks a lot more confident in his own end. He has stepped up his physical game and has been effective using his body in battles along the boards. His best attributes, though, are his defensive stick and strong skating.

Miller uses these well in tandem with each other as there are few defensemen who can chase down forwards on the rush and then have the coordination to knock the puck away while at full speed the way he can. Miller’s ability to recover also allows him to be a bit more aggressive pinching at the offensive blue line and keep pressure on the opponents. Against Carolina’s speed, Miller will need to be at the top of his game to help shut down the likes of Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Jake Guentzel. I think he is up for the challenge.

Barclay Goodrow
Barclay Goodrow celebrates his Game 3 shorthanded goal with Adam Fox / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

We are all too hard on Barclay Goodrow

On their show “Morning Cuppa Hockey,” Colby Cohen and Jonny Lazarus have talked about the concept of a “16 game player,” which is a player who can handle the rigors of playoff hockey and  contribute to a team’s quest for a Stanley Cup. Barclay Goodrow is a quintessential “16 game player” and he showed it against the Capitals. He is excellent defensively, wins faceoffs, and leads by example on the ice. He even chipped in offensively, dishing out two assists in game one and netting a goal in game three.

I understand why Goodrow is criticized by Rangers fans. How could you not when you are paying a payer $3.641M a year and he scores 12 points? That said, Goodrow is the type of player every team needs in the playoffs and he has stepped up his game to prove it. If he continues his excellent play against Carolina, conversations about his contract should fade out.


Mika Zibanejad
Mika Zibanejad celebrating a goal vs. the Caps / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

Mika has shaken off the Devils series

Mika Zibanejad had rough season by his standards. After putting up 91 points last year, Mika had only 72 this year and really struggled to produce at even strength. Though his play improved after the all-star break it still wasn’t the same confident Mika Zibanejad that Rangers fans have fallen in love with. After his series against the Caps, I, and everyone else, should have much more confidence in our favorite (active) Swede.

While he only scored one goal, Mika really drove play against Washington (Corsi: 54.8%, Fenwick: 58.4%). He had at least one assist in every game and came out with six total. I still want to see him shoot more, but it was nice to see him confidently skating the puck into the zone and being strong in battles along the boards. This is a major improvement on his performance from last year’s playoffs where he had just four points in seven games and looked completely outmatched. We know Mika can be an elite playoff player and it’s looking like we might have him back closer to his 2022 form.

Max Pacioretty
MSG celebrates the Rangers' Game 2 win / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

We have to start somewhere

You can’t criticize the Rangers for their first-round opponent being weak. They earned the right to an easier first round be being the NHL’s best team in the regular season. Anecdotally, this was the first Rangers series in my memory where I was not nervous for one second that they might blow it. The Rangers historically have a knack for making things much tougher than they need to be.

Not this year. I will be nervous against Carolina, who was the second-best team in East this year, but if they stay focused and continue to get contributions from up and down the lineup, I am confident the Rangers will earn other trip to the conference finals. Sending Washington home in such dominant fashion was a great confidence booster. Now, let’s have the Hurricanes join them.