The season has come to an end in Manhatten. There is now a summer of soul-searching and scouting to do to prepare for the 2023-24 season. There are contract negotiations to be had between some of the players that need new deals and the Rangers front office. That can be done later. For now, there have to be some reviews as to what went wrong for the New York Rangers in their series against the New Jersey Devils.
This does not have to be a look at what needed to happen for the Rangers to win in their series against the New Jersey Devils. It has to be a look at what the Rangers failed to do. Whether that is because of the suppression from New Jersey the Rangers just failed to execute due to a system clash or the players in blue and white were just unable to do what they were doing to find such success at the beginning of the season.
Seven games is more of a sample size than some others will get, but it’s still not enough. As Ranger fans, we want to see the Blueshirts end the regular season and then win 16 more times. In addition to those 16 games, they will lose. No team has ever swept the 4 round format perfectly. It’s way too difficult to do. Case and point, the best regular-season team ever is sitting on a golf course somewhere right now after losing in 7 in the first round.
Anyway, getting back to the Rangers. What went wrong? What caused the Rangers team that was coming into this postseason red hot to go from a 2-0 series lead absolutely smashing the Devils into the ice heading home to getting shut out twice in the series and going home at the end of round one?
The Rangers’ trades to acquire Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane could be described as modest successes. The pair combined for 33 points in 50 games during the regular season, and managed 10 points in the playoffs.
New York’s attempt to catch lightning with a bottle with some hired-gun rentals didn’t result in the type of postseason success the team was hoping for, but it would be hard to blame Tarasenko and Kane for the Rangers’ downfall.
Instead, the fact New York felt the need to reach for a band-aid solution like Tarasenko and Kane speaks to its inability to develop offensive threats internally. Beyond the trio of Panarin, Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, secondary scoring has been hard to come by for this team.
The addition of Vincent Trocheck in free agency prior to 2022-23 gave the team another strong contributor down the middle, and Filip Chytil took a step this season, but depth scoring remained an issue.
A big reason for that is this team is still waiting for its young talents to take the next step. It’s far too early to bury Alexis Lafrenière or Kaapo Kakko before either turns 23, but it’s also fair to say that New York probably expected more from guys drafted first and second overall, respectively.
Kakko is in his fourth NHL season and his 18 goals and 40 points in 2022-23 were career highs. He managed two points in the series against the Devils. Lafrenière has three seasons under his belt and he’s never eclipsed 19 goals or 39 points. He went pointless against New Jersey despite being elevated to the second line with Trocheck for most of the series.
Will Rangers move on from Gerard Gallant?
Gallant, 59, just completed the second year of a four-year contract that runs through the 2024-25 season. In his first two years as Rangers head coach he’s been excellent with a record of 99-46-19 and .662 points percentage.
You would think that’s enough to have job security. However, with James Dolan as owner and fiery Chris Drury running the team, you never know.
The problem for Gallant is his now 13-14 postseason record in New York. It also doesn’t help that in the last two rounds he’s coached, the team blew a 2-0 series lead.
Another potential issue for Gallant is that there are several big-name coaches available with Stanley Cup Championships on their resume.
Peter Laviolette was just let go by the Washington Capitals and is itching to get another coaching job. He won the Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes back in 2006.
That line plays hard, it forechecks, it creates turnovers and it uses both speed and power to beat opponents. Those sound like all the things the New York Rangers need.
It’s impossible to call those players busts until they have an actual opportunity. That needs to come next season.
Kakko, Lafrenière and Chytil should to be the team’s second line and all three players must receive power play time. They need to be given the chance to sink or swim and build confidence.
Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider should form a top line that strikes fear in opponents. The “Kid Line” provides a secondary scoring trio that plays a different style than the top line.
That variety in play only serves to help the team in the long run. The Devils’ youth crushed the Rangers. New York needs to let its youth get an opportunity to do the same.
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