Rangers likely to open in a best of three play in round when season resumes

Mika Zibanejad goal (Getty Images)

Can these Rangers win a best of three to get into to the big show for Lord Stanley’s Cup this summer? That’s where it appears the NHL is going if and when play resumes. The latest reports have both the league and the NHLPA going directly into a 24 team playoff where the top 12 from each conference will make it in. This scenario puts the Rangers in the bottom of the pack, and it does have them in the dance.

24 Team Playoffs

As the logistics of trying to bring back all teams to complete the regular season, even those with no chance of making the playoffs proved too difficult, the league seems to have settled on the 24 team tournament style format. Larry Brooks reported on the reasons in his latest.

1) Condensing the duration of play to better guard against the potential of a second wave of the coronavirus striking and necessitating a second shutdown; 2) Avoiding having to reassemble teams with no realistic chance of making the playoffs and having them play up to a month’s worth of meaningless games; 3) Avoiding the prospect of a quarantine within a hub city/hotel for up to four months, including a three-week training camp, for teams going deep into the playoffs following a regular-season completion.

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What is not clear is just how they will set up the tournament. One possibility would give the top 4 teams from each conference a 1st round bye. The remaining 8 would then have a best of 3 “play in round”.

Shesterkin and Panarin (Getty Images)

Possible Opponent for Rangers

If the league goes with the setup above, the Rangers “play in” opponent would be the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team is loaded with offensive stars like Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner but the Rangers have two studs of their own in Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. What this series will come down to is special teams play and goaltending. In between the pipes, I give Igor Shesterkin the edge over the Leafs goaltending which has been a mess for months.

Who’s ready for some playoff hockey?

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