The New Jersey Devils have been out of the playoffs for nine of the last ten seasons. That’s insane. It’s literally the worst stretch in the history of this franchise. You have to go back to the days of the Colorado Rockies to see a stretch this bad. This time, at least, the Devils got Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier to push them into the future. Hopefully, that’s the ticket to turn this team into a contender. First, the Devils have to make the playoffs.
That’s what the New York Rangers said as early as last season. They missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, and they really missed it four years in a row since they only made the qualifying round in 2020. Then, they started building everything close to perfect. We hate to say it, but everything just started working out.
They signed Artemi Panarin to a massive contract. It seemed too early, but Panarin was available and the Rangers had to pounce on him. They got the first-overall and second-overall picks in two of three NHL Drafts. They decided to extend Chris Kreider for seven years over trading him in 2020. They have a lot of really great young players because of savvy drafting for years.
Okay, enough positive talk about the Rangers. Really, the reason there was optimism about this franchise was Igor Shesterkin. The goalie is already one of the best in the league, and he might win the Vezina Trophy as a unanimous choice. He was the best goalie in the league this season, and it wasn’t close.
The Rangers had some strange underlying numbers, but they had a great goalie and a phenomenal power play. Those can put any team in any game on a nightly basis. We saw that come to play on Wednesday night. The Rangers were playing the Tampa Bay Lightning, the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion. They won the game 6-2 with just a dominating performance on both sides of the ice.
The Rangers have been incredibly lucky so far in the playoffs. Their run to the Eastern Conference Finals took them through Casey DeSmith, Louis Domingue, and Antti Raanta. Those three goalies are backups or worse. Now, they have to face Andrei Vasilevskiy.
However, they just put six goals behind Vasy. Was this because the Lightning had more than a week off after sweeping the Florida Panthers, or is it a sign of something worse?
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Either way, this is playing out in the worst way for Devils fans. There is one team we don’t want to see winning, and that’s the team across the Hudson River. We don’t want to see the fans in the arena above the train station happy. Ever. We want sadness in the World’s Greatest Arena.
The Rangers deserve credit, and they could be in a position to thrive for years to come. However, the Devils need the Lightning to get their act together and put the Rangers in their place. With that said, Lightning in 5 is our prediction. We need that for our sanity.