The NHL season is in its waning days and the New York Rangers sit comfortably in third place in the Metro Division with a convincing lead over wild card-contenders New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. Things are working out just like the script was written in the pre-season, right? Except the Rangers may have to face their local rivals (and second place team in the Metro Division) the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Bring your A game with you, gents – you will need it.
A tale of two teams in one metropolitan area.
Forgive me, Islanders’ fans – I mean no slight to you and yes I think the Isles will make the playoffs as well so all three New York metropolitan area teams will be in the Stanley Cup playoffs at the same time. The Rangers are possibly looking at playing the Devils right out of the gate in the playoffs with a first-round challenge for both teams. The reality is the nature, style of play and image of both teams couldn’t be more different.
For the Rangers, the physical, fight for every chunk of ice and ready to fight style of hockey permeates through their team DNA this season. With blueliner Jacob Trouba as your team captain, what did you expect from the Blueshirts this year? The Rangers faced down their purported playoff rivals this week and came away shorthanded with a 2-1 loss. With that win, the Devils wrapped up the season against their New York rivals with a 3-0-1 record which they haven’t done since the 2017-18 season.
Despite the usual valiant efforts of netminder Igor Shesterkin who notched 29 saves against the Devils, the combination of speed and puck possession bested the Blueshirts at the Prudential Center. The win gave the Devils new life here at the end of the regular season after losing six of their eight last games including a 5-1 beatdown from the Islanders this week. While this must sound like great news for the Rangers, they couldn’t convert the Devils’ recent woes into another W. As things stand, the Devils are still four points ahead of the Rangers and just a point behind the division-leading Carolina Hurricanes. It may be hard to believe but a potential Rangers-Devils playoff matchup could be the marquee event of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Stay tuned folks.