Why this year’s Rangers aren’t last year’s Bruins

NHL: New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers will begin their quest for the fifth Stanley Cup championship in franchise history Sunday, and despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy, they’re not considered the favorite. That distinction goes to the Carolina Hurricanes, who the Blueshirts defeated two out of three times in the regular season to finish first in the Metropolitan Division by three points.

Oddly enough, that hasn’t stopped some from drawing comparisons to last year’s Boston Bruins. A team that ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy by a staggering 22 points, piling up a League-record 65 wins. Boston also entered the playoffs as the clear favorite to win it all, before falling to the Florida Panthers in the first round, blowing a 3-1 series lead.

“It seems like last year [the Bruins] were the Presidents’ Trophy winner as of January,” Jimmy Vesey said via NHL.com. “We had to play down to Game 82 and we played a lot of teams down the stretch that were either really good teams or fighting for their lives.”

While it took the Rangers until the final game of the season to secure home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, that’s not why they shouldn’t be likened to the disappointing Bruins. It has more to do with their first-round opponent the Washington Capitals and the fact they aren’t last year’s Panthers.

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Rangers shouldn’t be compared to Bruins

NHL: New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Washington clinched a playoff spot with a win over the Philadelphia Flyers in their final game of the season. They did so by scoring an empty-net goal late to break a tie game, as the Flyers had to win in regulation just to have a chance to claim the East’s final wild card spot.

The Capitals have the worst goal differential of any playoff team at a -37. Meanwhile, the Rangers have the third best in the Eastern Conference at +53. By the way, if you’re thinking the Capitals improved down the stretch to make the playoffs, that would be wrong. Since the March 8 NHL Trade Deadline, Washington was 11-8-2 with a -10 goal differential. On the flip side, New York posted a record of 15-5-0 and a +15 goal differential.

Honestly, Washington is lucky the Flyers fell apart after the All-Star Break, and that they held the tiebreaker of regulation wins over the Detroit Red Wings, who finished with the same amount of points (91).

Unfortunately for the Bruins last season, they took on a Panthers team that was more than meets the eye. Unlike this year’s Capitals who missed last year’s playoffs, those Panthers were the Presidents’ Trophy winner the season prior.

Last season, Florida needed time to adjust to Paul Maurice as their new coach with a new system. It didn’t help that Sergei Bobrovsky struggled for most of the season, and Aleksander Barkov missed 14 games. However, the Panthers were 6-1-1 in their final eight contests to claim the last wild-card spot setting up their stunning upset over the Bruins and a run that ended with a loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final.

At the end of the day, these are all the reasons why it’s so hard to see the Rangers suffering the same fate as the 2022-23 Bruins. No one can predict what will happen in a best-of-7 series, but this Rangers team appears primed and ready to carry over their regular-season success into the first round.

“I’ve never won the Presidents’ Trophy before, but I think we’ve done something that over 82 games worked for us and brought us success,” Mika Zibanejad explained. “We just have to keep going with the things that we’ve been doing well, the habits we’ve created, the identity of our team, what we’ve been creating all year.”

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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