Barclay Goodrow signed a six-year deal worth $21.85 million with the New York Rangers this past summer, and while it is somewhat unprecedented for a career bottom-six forward to see the length of the deal that he received, the Rangers had confidence that he could provide an ‘edge’ that their lineup was missing.
Rangers fans can agree Goodrow has played to his contract, and beyond, this season. He had 33 points in 79 games this season — a career year — while being a large part of the bolstering of the bottom two lines the Rangers saw in 2021-22. The improvement in production from the third and fourth lines have complimented a star-studded top-six nicely and created the dangerous lineup which went 52-24-6 in the regular season, good for second in the Metropolitan Division.
Goodrow’s First-Round Injury
Despite Goodrow suffering an ankle injury in Game 1 of the first round, the Rangers looked like every bit of that complete, four-line offensive lineup fans saw in the regular season. In his absence, the Blueshirts have gotten large contributions down the lineup, specifically from the third line, better known as the ‘Kid Line’. Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, and Kaapo Kakko have stepped up and been a reliable third-line option for head coach Gerard Gallant throughout these playoffs. With all three at or below the age of 22, it’s been refreshing to see their emergence as prominent pieces of the Rangers’ future in these playoffs.
With Goodrow returning to the lineup for Game 6 of the second round, and the Rangers down 3-2 in the series to the Carolina Hurricanes, he gave a jolt to the Rangers’ lineup. That along with the assist he had in Game 7, contributed to the series comeback, sending them to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2014-15.
Rangers Now Battle the Back-to-Back Champs
The Rangers are now facing off against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Goodrow should know better than any other Blueshirt how difficult beating the Lightning in the playoffs can be, considering he spent two seasons in Tampa Bay, playing 63 regular season and 43 playoff games for the club.
A trade deadline acquisition in 2020, many questioned the move by general manager Julien Brisebois in the number of assets he gave up for him. Traded for his size and play in the defensive zone, he answered those questions through his play in the 2020 Playoffs. Contributing offense when necessary, he was mostly relied upon to fill in the cracks of the high-end talent on the first two lines. With the birth of the dreaded third line consisting of Goodrow, Blake Coleman, and Yanni Gourde, they filled in those cracks nicely and were a major contributor to the back-to-back cups. In fact, they were such a contributor to the success of the Lightning that the club was essentially no longer able to keep them in their current roles. Goodrow and Coleman signed contacts with other teams with terms that the Lightning wouldn’t have had the cap space for, and Gourde was taken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft by the Seattle Kraken.
Goodrow’s role in both Stanley Cup runs was a major contributing factor in the Rangers’ interest in signing him this past summer. Now his former team is the only thing standing between him and his third-straight Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Goodrow Likes His Chances with Shesterkin Over Vasilevskiy
While he’s well aware of the challenge that the Lightning poses to his current team, that didn’t stop him from giving them a little bulletin board material ahead of the series.
The goaltending matchup between two of the leagues best was one of the biggest storylines going into the series. While the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin is the odds on favorite to win the Vezina Trophy this year, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is regarded as the best overall goalie in the world. Goodrow made his opinion clear in the media this week when asked about who was better, as he smiled and said he’d take Shesterkin.
While after Game 1 Wednesday night, it may look like he had made the right call, the series is far from over. Giving up six goals on 34 shots, Vasilevskiy was anything but all-world-like. The majority of the goals were one-timers on odd-man rushes that he had little chance of stopping, however, he didn’t look his best. At the other end, Shesterkin kept the Rangers in it early on, as the Lightning had a number of high danger scoring chances in the first period. Lightning fans need not worry about their netminder given his playoff stats after a loss. He’s 17-0 with a 1.42 goals against average following a loss these past three playoff runs. Although, the series will likely come down to whether or not he can match or even surpass Shesterkin’s performance in Game 1.
Goodrow’s knowledge of his former team, along with his experience in the Conference Final over the last two years will be a storyline to look for as the series continues into Game 2 and beyond.