Well, despite the New York Rangers‘ best efforts to make the playoff push interesting, a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Washington Capitals officially eliminated David Quinn’s group from playoff contention. After a scorching hot run since early March, the Rangers faltered, suffering three defeats in a row, including back-to-back shutouts against the New York Islanders.
Although the order has yet to be determined, the four playoff teams from the MassMutual East Division are officially set. The Boston Bruins, Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Capitals will face-off in two series to determine who will represent the East in the final four NHL teams. The Rangers’ scuffle started as injuries took a toll, with Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, Brett Howden, and now Artemi Panarin, all went down, exiting the lineup.
The team started the season as the youngest in the NHL, battling hard against veteran, playoff-tested teams. Unfortunately, this young group did not have what it takes to pull off a miraculous run this season. The focus now shifts to 2021-22, when this group is poised to compete for the playoffs once more.
Head coach David Quinn expressed his frustration postgame, courtesy of Dan Rosen of the NHL.com. “Just another level of disappointment, really. Just didn’t get enough done this year. Had some great moments, some great stretches, but it just wasn’t enough.”
It is always disappointing missing the playoffs, but as Quinn alluded to, glimpses of stardom should have Rangers faithful excited for what the future has in store.
Tom Wilson Wreaks Havoc on Rangers
Stop me if you heard this before: Tom Wilson has once again crossed the line and injured a player. The Capitals forward took a cheap shot on a defenseless Pavel Buchnevich before rag-dolling a helmetless Panarin in the second period of Monday night’s game. Wilson was assessed four minutes in roughing penalties and a 10-minute misconduct but returned in the third period to score the empty-net goal.
The incident caused outrage throughout the hockey community, with former enforcer John Scott calling Wilson “gutless” and Mika Zibanejad expressing his displeasure after the loss. When asked for his opinion on the incident during the postgame press conference by The Athletic’s Rick Crapiniello, Zibanejad said, “I figured he should have some more respect for the game and for the players. I honestly don’t know where to start. It’s just horrible. Zero respect. And I don’t know why I am surprised, but yeah, it’s just horrible.”
The NHL Department of Player Safety clearly didn’t see the incident the same way as 95 percent of the hockey world did, levying a mere $5,000 fine on Wilson for his actions, the maximum allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Wilson had been suspended five times prior to this incident, including a seven-game suspension this season for boarding Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo. As a repeat offender, this decision to simply fine the Capitals winger comes as a shock, but more importantly, serves as a reminder that the NHL does not hold their players accountable enough for their actions.
Artemi Panarin Done For Season
As a result of being tossed to the ice by Wilson, superstar forward Panarin will miss the remainder of the season (three games) with what the organization called a lower-body injury. Quinn said Panarin was OK after the game went final, but the Rangers wisely protected their player from further injury in a meaningless final three games.
Panarin will finish the 2020-21 season with 17 goals and 41 assists for 58 points in just 42 games. He previously missed time after allegations surfaced about his alleged assault of a girl during his KHL days. Panarin is just the latest Rangers casualty on a growing list of injured regulars, opening the door for Morgan Barron, Tarmo Reunanen, Zac Jones, and others to get some NHL games in.
The Rangers wrap up their season with one last matchup against the Capitals before heading to Boston for a two-game set. They could have a major impact on the final standings regardless of their playoff status, and Wednesday night’s matchup will surely produce some fireworks.
Brendan Azoff is a THW contributor and podcast host dedicated to covering the New York Rangers. His passion for hockey started when he first laced up the skates at three, growing into his love for writing and talking about the greatest sport in the world. His podcast, The Backcheck, breaks down the Rangers, Islanders, and NHL news and can be found on The Hockey Writers Podcast Network and Belly Up Sports. Brendan has been writing about the Rangers and the NHL for over two years, with his content also found on Puck Prose, Blue Line Station, and E2G Sports. If you want to connect with Brendan and stay up-to-date on his posts, follow him on Twitter. He is always available for content ideas and interviews, don’t be afraid to ask!