Jastremski: It may be over for the NY Rangers, but they’ve only just begun

By: John Jastremski

Well, all feel-good rides must come to an end.

For the New York Rangers, the feel-good ride extended beyond anybody’s wildest dreams.

After all, the idea of the Rangers playing in the Eastern Conference Finals would have sounded comical back in October.

The Rangers exceeded expectations, grew as a team, flourished as a team, and inspired a fan base that was hungry for playoff hockey.

The Rangers brought a team to the postseason that didn’t exactly have a ton of playoff experience.

After the Eastern Conference Finals, they’ve now played 20 playoff games.

They won five elimination games and overcame a 3-1 first-round deficit and a 3-2 second-round deficit.

The Rangers provided a spring full of exhilarating moments.

They also learned a valuable lesson.

Don’t let the champs off the hook.

Despite all of the good vibes of the ‘21-‘22 Rangers season, the team was up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the two time Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

In addition to their 2-0 series advantage, the Rangers held a 2-0 lead in Game 3.

The Rangers’ inability to close out the Lightning in Game 3 gave the two-time champs exactly the sort of jumpstart that they needed.

After Game 3, it was no secret. The Lightning were the sharper and more complete hockey team.

Tampa outplayed the Rangers in the final four games of the series and reminded the hockey world of their greatness.

A tough pill for Rangers fans to swallow, but if you’re looking for a silver lining, do yourself a favor. Take a listen to Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach John Cooper after his team clinched the series in six.

Cooper made it clear to anyone listening that he thinks over the next few years, the Rangers will be in the position to be the last team standing.

With Igor Shesterkin in net, explosive young goal scorers, and some veteran experience mixed in, I wouldn’t bet against that prediction.

Nothing is a given in sports, next season the Rangers will have to go out and prove it again.

You don’t get many free years in sports, the Rangers most certainly won’t have one next year, but this year was pretty darn fun.

I could be wrong, but I think for this group of New York Rangers. They’ve only just begun…

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York on The Ringer Podcast Network every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. You can also watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight right after Mets Postgame on SNY.

Jastremski: Comeback Rangers advance to Round 2

Postseason Series fascinate me on so many different levels as a sports fan.

After all, the loser sees their season come to an end, but it’s much more than that.

It’s the heightened drama, suspense, and all of the twists and turns that accompany intense games between two of the same teams over a week to two-week span.

New York Rangers fans experienced the rollercoaster of emotions that a playoff series can provide over the last two weeks.

A week ago, the Rangers season was on life support.

After a feel-good regular season, the first four games of their 1st round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins were nothing short of a nightmare.

The Rangers lost both games 3 and 4 in Pittsburgh and to make matters worse, star goaltender Igor Shesterkin was pulled in each game.

The onslaught of Penguins goals in Game 4 didn’t exactly inspire confidence that a comeback was possible.

Something changed in the Rangers returning home for Game 5.

Rangers Head Coach Gerard Gallant called the team soft following the Game 4 loss. Personally, I thought it was a desperate ploy by a coach of a dead team trying to wake his team up.

Guess what, it worked.

The Rangers sense of intensity and determination was all over the ice in the final three games of the series.

They were down 2 goals in Game 5 and came back to win.

Game 6, they returned to Pittsburgh, the scene of the Game 3 and 4 horror show, and proceeded to overcome yet another two-goal deficit.

In Game 7, the Rangers trailed late in the third period, but Mika Zibanejad’s clutch game-tying goal set the stage for Artemi Panarin’s series-clinching goal in overtime.

The Rangers’ star players were quiet for the first four games of the series. However, in their final three wins, they were instrumental to their success.

Zibanejad and Panarin struggled for the first five games of the series but responded in a big way. The same could be set for netminder Igor Shesterkin.

Shesterkin found his comfort zone and got back to the winning style of play that was on display throughout the regular season.

The Rangers won a series that in many ways validates their feel-good regular season.

Up next for the Comeback Kids, the Carolina Hurricanes. A team that knocked the Blueshirts out of the 2020 COVID Bubble Tournament and dominated the head-to-head regular-season match-ups.

Unlike the last series against Pittsburgh, the Rangers are underdogs heading in.

Let’s see what other twists and turns await “The Comeback Kid” Rangers in the roller coaster ride that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs…

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. We will have episodes following Game 1 on Wednesday & Game 3 on Sunday. Plus you can catch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight following the Mets on SNY.

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