New York Rangers believe they are as good as anyone in these playoffs
“I think we’re as good as anybody in the playoffs,” New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant said on Sunday.
This season, the Rangers surprised a lot of experts that had them as a fringe team likely to compete for the second Wild Card. Instead, the Blueshirts were buoyed early by the Vezina worthy goaltending of Igor Shesterkin before taking off around December. They eventually finished second in an extremely competitive Metropolitan Division with a record of 52-24-6 (110 points).
The head coach also didn’t want to come off cocky and added that he could see anybody in the playoffs beating them too.
“I truly believe we can win against Pittsburgh,” Gallant continued. “Are we favored against Pittsburgh? I don’t really care about that. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, I feel good about our team.
“I think we can make a run. I don’t know if we’re gonna, but I think we have as good a chance as anybody else. I believe anybody can beat anybody, I really do.”
New York Rangers not fazed heading into Playoffs
The New York Rangers are heading into their first official NHL Playoffs in four years. Many of them don’t include the qualifying round in the bubble, a three-game sweep by the Hurricanes during the pandemic shortened season of 2020.
“We don’t talk about the bubble,” Artemi Panarin said on Sunday.
Gallant has done a brilliant job with his consistent mantra being about his team and what they can do. That has carried over to his players with Panarin giving his thoughts about what it will take for the Rangers to win in the postseason.
“I think winners can control their emotions and do everything that they do before,” Panarin explained. “I hope we can do this. I’m sure we can do this.”
Of course, the Rangers are facing a more playoff experienced team that has proven winners.
“You know what you got with Pittsburgh. You know Crosby, Malkin, and Letang but that doesn’t worry us,” Gallant said. “I like our team and I like what we’re going to bring. We’re ready for this series.”
Andrew Copp, who brings playoff experience to the table with the Winnipeg Jets also weighed in.
“I don’t think experience is all that it gets chalked up to be,” Copp explained. “They’re just three really good players and their team is very good– I think our team is very good, too. I think we’re ready for this challenge. It’s definitely going to be a great series and we’re looking forward to it.”
Copp then expanded on what he believes will be the key for the Blueshirts in their first playoff action in a few years.
“It’s just the even-keel mentality,” he said. “If you win Game 1 of the first round it doesn’t mean you won the Stanley Cup and if you lose Game 1, it doesn’t mean you’re going home in four.”
What the Penguins are saying
As you would imagine, the Penguins are talking up their playoff experience, which is led by their top trio of the aforementioned Crosby, Malkin, and Letang.
“There isn’t a more accomplished core group of players in the game than this core group that’s here right now,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of his team. “These guys are battle-tested. They’ve been through a lot. They’ve had a lot of success. But they’ve also had their disappointments… I think those experiences are invaluable.”
The Penguins also understand that their regular season struggles against the Rangers, where they lost three of four games means they will have to make some changes.
“We’re going to play the game that gives us the best chance to win. That’s what we’ve tried to do all year long,” Sullivan noted. “We’ll certainly go to work here over the next couple of days and see if there’s anything we can do to be better against the Rangers.”
Sullivan also highlighted the strengths of the Blueshirts that have carried them to a strong showing in 2021-22.
“The biggest takeaway is recognizing that they’re a real good hockey team. They’ve got a lot of team speed. Their power play is really dangerous. They’ve got terrific goaltending. They’re a deep team. They’re a good team. It’ll be a big challenge for us.”
One of those challenges for Pittsburgh will be starting the playoffs without their number one goalie Tristan Jarry, who is still dealing with a lower-body injuy. Forward Jason Zucker is also out.
“We don’t expect to have them for the first couple of games, I will say that,” Sullivan said. “But their status right now is day-to-day. We’ll update you guys as we go.”
That means backup Casey DeSmith will play at least the first two games against the Rangers. The 30 year-old posted solid numbers with a 2.79 GAA and a .914 SV% for a 11-6-5 record this year.
DeSmith did not play this season against the Blueshirts, but for his career he is 3-2-1 with a 3.45 GAA and an .886 SV%.
This will be DeSmith’s first postseason start on Tuesday night.
“The bottom line is nothing really changes,” he said Sunday. “It’s really just another hockey game.”
New York Rangers playoff schedule
|GM 1: Tuesday, 5/3 @NYR||7PM ET||(MSG, ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)|
|GM 2: Thursday, 5/5 @NYR||7PM ET||(MSG, TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)|
|GM 3: Saturday, 5/7 @PIT||7PM ET||(MSG, TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)|
|GM 4: Monday, 5/9 @PIT||7PM ET||(MSG, ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)|
|GM 5: Wednesday, 5/11 @NYR||TBD||TBA|
|GM 6: Friday, 5/13 @PIT||TBD||TBA|
|GM 7: Sunday, 5/14 @NYR||TBD||TBA|
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