It’s time for the New York Rangers to turn out the lights because their 2020 playoff party is officially over.
The Carolina Hurricanes swept the Rangers 3-0 in a best-of-five qualifying round. Despite a hopeful start in Game 3 with a goal by Chris Kreider to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the second period, it didn’t take the Hurricanes long to tie and then to proceed to score three more goals, including an empty netter.
After the first two lackluster games, the Rangers deserve a little credit for playing slightly better in Game 3, even if it was for the first two periods. Throughout all three games, it became clear that Carolina was the better team. They were able to execute their game plan, keeping the Rangers in a perpetual state of playing keep-up. Carolina also had an aggressive forecheck the Rangers appeared to have no answer for. They also kept the Rangers pinned in their own defensive zone on several occasions, which did eventually turn into goals for the Hurricanes. Outstanding plays by both Carolina goalies, Petr Mrázek and James Reimer, only helped to cement the Rangers’ playoff demise.
In the midst of the catastrophe that was the 2020 Rangers playoff bid, there are several takeaways the Rangers can go into next season with.
Kaapo Kakko 2.0
Throughout the regular season, Kakko endured a lot of criticism for his play. At times, he appeared hesitant to take a shot on goal and would pass instead of shoot. However, starting in Game 1, Kakko appeared to be more confident and his play showed a willingness to shoot instead of hanging onto the puck. If his improvement since the pause is any indication of his progression as a player, there may be hope for him to be the player the Rangers are expecting him to be.
Special teams? What’s that?
If the Rangers hope to succeed in the future on special teams, they need to watch these three games over and over. Maybe they didn’t notice, but throughout all three games, the Rangers looked dead when it came to special teams. Despite the plethora of chances presented to them, their power play could have been described as abysmal. Similar to how they are during the regular season, the Rangers seemed to love to pass the puck instead of shooting. Game 1 featured an 0-7 power-play record, and there was little improvement in the two subsequent games.
Pick a goalie, any goalie
It needs to be Igor Shesterkin going forward. Those who are making decisions for the Rangers’ front office need to have another talk with Henrik Lundqvist to see if he still wants to stay while the team is marching on with the rebuild. Despite all Lundqvist has done for the Rangers, it’s apparent to all that he’s not the immortal being fans believe him to be. Shesterkin will need to be the new immortal for the Rangers going forward, and as he gets more games under his belt, the future looks promising.
Despite an overall promising season, the Rangers will have to address some significant holes starting with depth on defense during this offseason. This series was a harsh reminder that they still have a long way to go. The Rangers can use these games, including the battle against the New York Islanders, as a way to strengthen their play and coaching.
There were glimpses of the New York Rangers that fans all know and love, but those glimpses weren’t enough to overcome their deficient performance. In the meantime, the Rangers might want to keep their fingers crossed for that 12.5 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the second phase of the NHL’s draft lottery.