Rangers Clinch Stanley Cup Playoff Berth Amid Setbacks


With the playoffs ahead, the Rangers are locked in for a Stanley Cup trophy.(Courtesy of Twitter)

The New York Rangers punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season last Monday, and continue to hold on to third place in the Metropolitan Division. In a preview of the likely first round playoff matchup, the Rangers suffered a close loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. They traveled to Buffalo for a back-to-back game on Friday night and gained a point in the standings after an overtime loss. As the regular season comes to a close, the Blueshirts look to turn their play around and gear up for what they hope will be a lengthy playoff run.

One of the biggest worries for the team and fans alike has been reigning Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin’s slump throughout the end of February and beginning of March. Just in time for the playoffs, he seems to have returned to form, boasting a 0.932 save percentage and a shutout in the month of March. Backup goalie Jaroslav Halak is not too far behind him, with a 0.918 save percentage and an additional shutout in the past month. It’s safe to say Shetserkin clawed his way out of the slump and is polishing up his game just in time for the postseason.

Another concern has been the notable playoff warrior Ryan Lindgren’s long-term injury. After he got checked against the boards in a game against the Washington Capitals back in February, he suffered a shoulder injury that saw him sidelined until late March. He returned for one game and re-aggravated the injury, and there’s been minimal news on when he’ll return to the ice. While there’s no rush for him to return for the remaining regular season games, the Rangers perform worse when he’s not in the lineup. His value in blocking shots and raising the level of his defensive partner Adam Fox’s performance is missing when he’s not on the ice, but his health in the playoffs is vital.
On a more positive note, the Rangers’ biggest trade deadline addition, Patrick Kane, is continuing to build chemistry with the team and is comfortably producing with 10 points in 16 games. He will be a valuable player to have in the locker room for the playoffs, as he is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and won the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the playoff MVP.

Vladimir Tarasenko, who is another deadline addition, also has a Stanley Cup win under his belt and will prove to be valuable for the Rangers’ longevity in the postseason. The Blueshirts took on the Capitals in a Sunday matinée, and gained a valuable two points in the standings after a 5-2 blowout. Alexis Lafreniere’s highlight-reel goal and Artemi Panarin’s three assists carried the team to victory, while newly-minted Rangers Kane and Tarasenko added a point each. Mika Zibanejad reached a new career high for points in a season and is creeping up on the 40-goal mark. It was a turnaround performance after dropping two straight games, proving their ability to bounce back which will be important once the regular season ends.With five games remaining, the Blueshirts are trying to rise above the Devils in the Metropolitan Division rankings in order to gain home-ice advantage in the first round of playoffs. It’s shaping up to be a Rangers-Devils matchup, but the top three teams in the division are only separated by four points.

The division seems to still be up for grabs, but the Rangers, Devils and Hurricanes are all safely in the playoffs while the Penguins and Islanders battle it out for the Wild Card position. Now after Sunday’s win against the Capitals, the Rangers will face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday in their first matchup since Dec. 29 last year.