What’s next for New York Rangers after winning Presidents’ Trophy

NHL: St. Louis Blues at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Laviolette is extremely proud of the New York Rangers and all they accomplished this season. But the Rangers coach isn’t exactly going to sit around basking in the glow of the Presidents’ Trophy or a franchise-record 55 wins and 114 points, either.

“The regular season, you have to play the 82 games and … if you just focus on the games you can find success and you can win them and put yourself in a good position,” Laviolette explained after the Rangers closed out the 2023-24 regular season with a 4-0 win against the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to wake up tomorrow and have to turn the page and start getting ready for why we did all that work. And that’s the playoffs.”

Laviolette knows of what he speaks. He coached the Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup championship in 2006 and two teams (the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 and Nashville Predators in 2017) to the Cup Final. He also was Nashville’s coach when it won the Presidents’ Trophy with 117 points in 2017-18 and then flamed out in the second-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy three previous times. In Mark Messier’s first season with the Blueshirts in 1991-92, they won 50 games and had a League-high 105 points. However, the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied past them in the second round of the playoffs. Two years later, Messier and Co. again won the Presidents’ Trophy (52 wins, 112 points) and then slayed the dragon, winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years.

In 2024-15, the Rangers won 53 games and had 113 points but ran out of steam in the third round, losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

No one knows what lies ahead for these Blueshirts. But Laviolette has reason to feel confident about the postseason.

“I think there’s a group that feels like when they put their equipment on they can win,” Laviolette said. “I think that’s a good thing when your team can establish itself with a DNA that’s a work-ethic attitude.”

That said, let’s examine what’s in store next for the Rangers in the short term, with their sights set on winning their first Stanley Cup championship in 30 years this spring.

Related: Rangers coach hears chants for Matt Rempe

What’s next for New York Rangers after winning Presidents’ Trophy

NHL: Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

3. Days off to rest, recover, recharge

As if playing an 82-game regular season isn’t grueling enough, the Rangers finished the schedule with 22 games in 45 days. So, being one of four teams to have already concluded their schedule gives the Rangers an extra day or two of rest ahead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which will begin this weekend.

Laviolette gave the Rangers two straight days off Tuesday and Wednesday before returning to practice Thursday. At this stage of the season, rest and recovery are two of the most important words in any coach’s or player’s vocabulary. And the days away from the rink will be as much of a mental break as physical.

The Rangers are in a good place with injuries. Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren and Erik Gustafsson each finished the season on the ice after missing time with a late-season injury. In fact, so healthy are the Rangers that even Filip Chytil, who hasn’t played since November because of an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion, is practicing again.

Veteran forward Blake Wheeler remains the only player unable to practice at this time and is likely out for the entirety of the postseason.

2. Wait on their 1st-round playoff opponent

Though they are guaranteed home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs by virtue of winning the Presidents’ Trophy, the Rangers still don’t know the identity of their first-round opponent.

That could change soon. If the Washington Capitals defeat the Philadelphia Flyers in any fashion Tuesday night, they would earn the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference and face-off with the Rangers in the first round. It would be the 10th postseason meeting between these rivals, with the Rangers holding a 5-4 series lead.

If the Capitals lose in any fashion and the Detroit Red Wings defeat the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, then the Rangers would face the Red Wings in the playoffs for the first time since 1950.

There are other possible scenarios that involve the Pittsburgh Penguins and Flyers that could extend the drama until Wednesday night.

But when the Rangers return to practice Thursday, they will know their first-round playoff opponent.

1. Appreciate a truly special 2023-24 regular season

Hockey coaches and players don’t buy into being reflective when a season is still underway. The common theme is that they’ll look back on the good, bad and ugly once the summer arrives and a new season is on the horizon.

But from owner James Dolan to general manager Chris Drury, coach Peter Laviolette, the players and all Rangers fans, it’s worth a moment to reflect and appreciate how incredibly special this regular season was.

Yes, the Rangers have 100+ points in each of the past three seasons, but 2023-24 was truly memorable. It starts with the buy in by the players to the new coach and commitment to his system. It continues through 28 comeback wins, 30 wins at Madison Square Garden and a first-place standing in the Metropolitan Division since late October.

There were 49 goals and 120 points by Hart Trophy candidate Artemi Panarin. A breakout 28-goal season by former No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere. A second All-Star season for Vincent Trocheck, who won the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award. Brilliant goalie play by the tandem of Igor Shesterkin and Jonathan Quick, the latter of whom became the winningest United States-born goalie in NHL history. And an NHL career-high 17 goals by Norris Trophy candidate Adam Fox.

And we didn’t even mention Matt Rempe and the emergence of Rempe-Mania at MSG. Nor Chris Kreider’s assault on the Rangers record book and an epic come-from-behind win against the Islanders in front of 79,000 fans outdoors at MetLife Stadium.

You get the idea. An incredibly special, record-setting season for the Rangers. Enjoy it for another day. Then, as Laviolette said, turn the page. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are next.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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