The New York Rangers have completed their rebuild, and seem to finally be ready to contend for a Cup again. Following a rough season filled with ups and downs, the Rangers are looking to erase last season and focus on making the playoffs in the 2021-22 season. The Blueshirts haven’t made the playoffs since 2017, but are in decent position to become a playoff contender again in 2022. Here’s why the New York Rangers will make the playoffs.
Inconsistency With The Rangers in 2021
The Rangers in the 2020-21 season were the most inconsistent team in the NHL. The team would get shutout in one game and then win 9-0 in the next game. It was made clear last season that when the Rangers are playing at their best, they are one of the most explosive teams in the league. Not to mention, the Rangers had a lot of players in and out of the lineup. The team got hot midseason, but lost all momentum when the team lost superstar winger Artemi Panarin. Panarin dealt with legal issues and minor injuries throughout the season. Artemi Panarin is easily New York’s best player, feuling the power play unit and creating scoring quality chances for himself and for his teammates.
Speaking of teammates, Igor Shesterkin, Jacob Trouba, and Filip Chytil all missed significant time due to injuries last season. When healthy, the Rangers have one of the best young goalies in the league in Shesterkin, and good physical leaders in Trouba and Kreider. The Rangers lacked leadership at times last season with some of their veteran players out of the lineup. With the additions of Ryan Reaves and Barclay Goodrow, physicality shouldn’t be an issue. Lastly, Mika Zibanejad had an atrocious start to the season, as did the Rangers, but once Zibanejad was able to turn it around, so did the New York Rangers. In spite of all this inconsistency, the Rangers still managed to finish the season with a winning record, and a ton to look forward to in the future.
The Weakened Metropolitan Division
The 2020-21 season was bizarre of course due to the lack of fans throughout the regular season, but we also have to acknowledge the scheduling changes. For example, in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19, NHL teams only faced teams within their own division. Because of this shortened season, the divisions were not the same as normal either. The Rangers had to play in the most noticeably stacked division, featuring the likes of the Bruins, Penguins, Islanders, and Capitals. Because of the loaded division, the Rangers just missed out on the playoffs. However, New York finished with the best record out of all the teams to miss the playoffs, including finishing with more wins than the Montreal Canadiens- the team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
Looking ahead towards this season, the Metropolitan division won’t be nearly as stacked as last season’s northeastern division. First off, the Blue Jackets, Flyers, and Devils will not be contending for playoff spots. This already means that the Rangers can grab a wild card spot. However, it is likely that New York can finish within the top 3 of the division. The Capitals and Penguins have been outstanding for many years now, but both teams are aging and have relatively poor goaltending. Also, while the Islanders should make the playoffs, the same can not be said for the Carolina Hurricanes. After losing Dougie Hamilton, Alex Nedeljkovic, and other assets, the team took a huge step backwards this summer. The Metropolitan playoff spots are up for grabs, and the Rangers are in a prime position to make it.