One season after losing in the 2022 Eastern Conference Final, the New York Rangers will aim to advance to the Stanley Cup Final in 2023. They acquired former Stanley Cup winners Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane to help win a championship. Mika Zibanejad, Igor Shesterkin, Chris Kreider, Adam Fox, and Artemi Panarin make up the core of the club.
The franchise had many supporting players who played a key role in last year’s postseason run. Two of those players, Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano, are with other teams. The Rangers hope members of the ‘Kid Line’ of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko build upon their numbers from the 2022 Playoffs. Let’s take a look at four players besides the members of their core who will be crucial to the club’s playoff success.
The Rangers lost Ryan Strome last offseason and needed a second-line center. They signed Vincent Trocheck to a seven-year contract on July 13, 2022, to fill the void. He has adjusted to playing in the tough New York market, now he needs to adapt further to playing on the same line as newcomer Kane.
Trocheck had an assist on Kane’s power-play (PP) goal in the March 14 win versus the Washington Capitals. Both forwards assisted on defenseman Jacob Trouba’s tally later in the same contest. The combination can be a difference for the Rangers’ success in the postseason whether Panarin or Kreider is at left wing. The pressure is on the second line to gel with a few weeks until the start of the playoffs.
Last year, the 29-year-old center finished third on the Carolina Hurricanes with six goals and four assists in 14 postseason games. Three of his six tallies came in the seven-game second-round series against the Rangers. That rate of production will be expected from him for the club to have a second consecutive deep playoff run.
Related: Rangers Relying on Trocheck to Get Most Out of Kane & Panarin
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Trocheck leads all Rangers centers in Corsi For (CF%) with a 53.70% at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick. He has been durable playing in all 70 regular season contests, making him one of five forwards on the club to do that. He was difficult for New York to play against in last year’s second-round series.
The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native admitted playing in the playoffs helps him maintain his energy level. “I would never say that, ‘I’m built for the playoffs,’ but I become more mentally engaged, it helps with my energy level. I have more jump” (from ‘Vincent Trocheck vows Rangers won’t get ‘pushed around’ in NHL playoffs, New York Post, 3/15/23). The Rangers will benefit from his enthusiasm this postseason.
Ryan Lindgren has been out since sustaining an injury on Feb. 25 versus the Capitals. His absence has been difficult for the Rangers due to his playing style. The Minneapolis, Minnesota native does not hesitate to play physical or block shots. The pairing of him and Fox is one of the best in the league. The 2021 Norris Trophy winner has been affected by the absence of his defensive partner.
Lindgren suffered an injury in Game 1 of the first-round series last year against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He missed the following three contests. The Rangers missed his defensive-minded presence against their opponent’s high-octane offense led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jake Guentzel. The blueliner’s return in Game 5 provided a boost for New York, helping them come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series.
The 25-year-old makes a difference for the Rangers in shots blocked and hits taken. Braden Schneider has made strides for them this year as a defensive defenseman but they are a better team with Lindgren in the lineup. He is progressing in his return. They will be more solid defensively with him healthy heading into the postseason.
Chytil did well last postseason for the Rangers. He finished third on the club with seven goals in 20 playoff games. The 23-year-old has developed the reputation of a streaky player. Six of his nine points during the playoffs came over a four-game span – all wins for New York. The club needs him to become a consistent point producer.
Chytil had an assist in the March 18 win to snap a seven-game pointless streak. He scored his first goal since Feb. 8 in the March 19 win against the Nashville Predators. From Jan. 3 to Feb. 18, in 18 contests, he had 11 goals and seven assists. His four points in the following 14 games are not good enough. The Rangers’ expectations for him are not being met based on his unreliable production.
No matter who Chytil ends up playing with, he will need to produce. Playing with experienced playmakers such as Kane, Tarasenko, or Kreider will help him. Consistent offense from the 23-year-old will alleviate pressure off of the Rangers’ key players in the postseason. If he becomes more dependable, they will have a better opportunity of winning a championship.
Following the acquisition of Kane, this season has undoubtedly become about bringing the Stanley Cup back to Broadway. It will be a massive disappointment for the fanbase if the Rangers do not win a championship. He has the ability to be a difference-maker for New York due to winning multiple Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Since Rangers’ general manager (GM) Chris Drury acquired him, it has been an adjustment for both Kane and his linemates playing with one another. Panarin, who began his NHL career with the Blackhawks, has previous experience playing with him. The Buffalo, New York native has displayed his elite offensive skills with three multi-point games in nine contests for New York.
Kane played for some exceptional clubs over the course of his career with the Blackhawks. Despite his lack of production this season, he is still capable of playing a role in helping the Rangers. He has proven his worth on the power play with two of his three goals for New York occurring on the man advantage. The duo of him and Panarin on the power play will be tough for defenses to limit in the postseason.
If the Rangers win the Stanley Cup, they will have many players that helped them reach their ultimate goal. The core of Zibanejad, Shesterkin, Kreider, Panarin, and Fox are the foundation of the organization. Trocheck, Lindgren, Chytil, and Kane can play significant roles for the club as well. This roster has an opportunity to bring the Stanley Cup back to the organization for the first time since 1994.