New York Rangers eliminated from playoff contention; assessing the season

By Frank Curto
May 3, 2021; New York, New York, USA; The New York Rangers leave the ice following a 6-3 loss to the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on May 03, 2021 in New York City. With the loss the Rangers were eliminated for playoff contention. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs Monday night. The inevitable conclusion to the season should not be looked at as a failure. Rather it’s a learning curve in what will lead to playoff runs and maybe an elusive Stanley Cup Championship.

Sadly, the Blueshirts were proven to be a mid-pack team in a very tough Eastern Division. They were able to defeat the division’s weaker teams. They had winning records against the New Jersey Devils ( 6-2), Buffalo Sabres (6-1-1), and the Philadelphia Flyers (4-3-1). That allowed the team to stay in the playoff hunt for as long as they did.

Their demise was against the top four clubs. The record combined against the Washington Captials (one game left), Pittsburgh Penguins, and New York Islanders, and Boston Bruins ( with two games yet to be played) after Monday’s game was 10-15-4. Five games under .500 is pretty respectful for one of the youngest teams in the NHL.

New York Rangers eliminated: Unable to bounce back from early adversity

It has been said that games in the early part of an NHL season don’t have a lot of value to them. For the Rangers, these games’ losses probably cost them a serious shot at a playoff spot. In the team’s first 15 games, they managed a record of 5-7-3. That was only 13 out of 30 possible points in the standings.

A slumping Mika Zibanejad did not help the situation. Zibanejad struggled to find his game early on as the team looked for a leader on the ice they were unable to find. This club ‘rides and dies’ with the number one center and it was so evident this season.

Artemi Panarin’s difficulty off the ice caused plenty of issues for the team on the ice during his nine-game leave of absence. He is now considered to be out for the season after Tom Wilson’s rag dolling last night.

The inconsistency of Chris Kreider was another reason this team had its issues on the offensive side of the ice. He managed to carry the team in Panarin’s absence but then fell into one of the coldest stretched of his career. He managed to score only four goals in a 21 game span between March 7- April 15th.

Igor Shetserkin and Alexandar Georgiev struggled mightily early this season. The duo who many believed would be able to carry the team never seemed to make the big saves at big times to steal wins in January. At one point of the season, things got so bad for Georgiev that Keith Kinkaid, off of the Taxi Squad, was getting more playing time than was originally planned.

This all led to the eventual New York Rangers elimination from the playoffs.

new york rangers eliminated
May 3, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Daniel Sprong #10 of the Washington Capitals scores an unassisted goal at 4:37 of the third period against Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Bright Spots for the Blueshirts

In a season where many things went the wrong way for the Blueshirts, there were plenty of exciting things to build on.

Adam Fox has found his place in the NHL. He had an outstanding year leading the NHL in assists and points as of Monday night’s game for defensemen. His name has been deservingly mentioned in the Norris Trophy conversation. He along with Ryan Lindgren have formed a defensive paring other teams need to prepare for every time they play against the Blueshirts.

Kaapo Kakko turned the corner and looked to be the player the Rangers hoped for when they drafted him as the second overall pick in 2019. Filip Chytil had a good season despite missing time due to injury. He was a strong third line center for most of the year. Alexis Lafreniere adjusted to the NHL in the second half of the season and looks primed for a promising sophomore season in 2021-22.

Rangers making the Qualifying Round led to high hopes

The Rangers making the qualifiers in last year’s COVID shortened season gave the fanbase false hope for this one. The reality of just how young this team is displayed some deficiencies that will need to be addressed.

The head coach will certainly be on the hot seat next season. The biggest question now is not can he coach the younger kids o the team, but can he get his veterans to hear his message? How long of a rope will John Davidson and Jeff Gorton give Quinn before they yank it away and go in another direction?

All in all, this year cannot be considered a failure, but more of a disappointment. So many times the team proved it was able to play with the big boys. However, in the end there’s a lot of work to be done before they prove that is a postseason hockey club.