Rangers’ Must-Watch Games in March

The New York Rangers concluded their schedule in February with mixed results, as they lost the last two games of the month – 1-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins and 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks. New York played two good games during February, with victories against the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals. The other five games exposed flaws and inconsistencies with the team, as they went 2-2-1 in those five contests.

The Rangers have several games against Western Conference teams during the first half of the month. They will play the St. Louis Blues twice, and the Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, and Anaheim Ducks each once. The Rangers have six games against foes in the Metropolitan Division. Here are some must-watch games that will be coming up in March on the Rangers schedule.

March 4 & 22: New Jersey Devils

One of the Rangers’ top rivals, the New Jersey Devils, will visit Madison Square Garden on March 4 before the two franchises square off at the Prudential Center on the 22nd of the month. The franchises engaged in a competitive game back on Nov. 14 – a 4-3 shootout win for the Rangers on their home ice. Sammy Blais suffered a season-ending injury – a torn ACL during the matchup.

Related: Rangers vs. Devils: A Look Back at the Rivalry

The two franchises have had memorable games and playoff series throughout the course of their rivalry. The Rangers and Devils had two outstanding Eastern Conference Final series in 1994 and 2012. The game between the teams back in November was a close contest that is an example of how tough the franchises play one another.

Jack Hughes New Jersey Devils
Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Due to the competitive nature of division rivalries, it is anticipated these two games between the Rangers and the Devils will both be physical, close games. The franchises are two of the youngest in the NHL. A few of the Rangers’ top players are veterans in Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, and Mika Zibanejad in addition to youngsters Adam Fox and Igor Shesterkin. Youth comprises the majority of the Devils’ roster. Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Dawson Mercer represent some of the exciting, young players on offense. Dougie Hamilton is in his prime at 28 years of age, and is the top defenseman for New Jersey.

The Rangers have a decisive advantage over the Devils at the goaltending position. Shesterkin is arguably New York’s best player. He will likely be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, and is a candidate for the Hart Trophy. The Devils have had injuries to the two goaltenders who were projected to be their starter and backup this year in Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier, respectively.

Blackwood has missed time this season with several injuries. He has been on injured reserve (IR) since Jan. 25 after struggling with a heel injury that is related to offseason surgery he had. Bernier had hip surgery, and was ruled out for the remainder of 2021-22 at the beginning of January. Jon Gillies and Nico Daws are the current goaltending tandem for the team. The latter turned in an impressive performance on Feb. 24 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and may have an advantage temporarily as the Devils’ number one goaltender.

March 17: New York Islanders

The Rangers will face off against the team they share a city with, the New York Islanders, on Mar. 17. The Rangers will be at home for the game. The Rangers defeated the Islanders, 4-1, in their only game against each other this season back on Nov. 24.

The game between the two franchises will be another physical contest. Rangers players that are not known for their physicality, such as Fox and Alexis Lafreniere, injected themselves into confrontations during the last matchup earlier this season. Kreider, who is a skilled, physical player, commented on the Rangers’ second-year forward getting involved in a fight with the Islanders’ Jean-Gabriel Pageau, “I think we were all [proud of him]. That was awesome. He loves mixing it up. He loves playing with an edge,” (from ‘Rangers show Islanders they can dominate physically, New York Post, 11/24/21). Fans of either team or of hockey rivalries will want to tune into the game between the Rangers and Islanders as it is sure to be full of animosity.

March 19: Tampa Bay Lightning

The Rangers will have a challenge during Mar. 19-20, as they are on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes, respectively. The Rangers and Lightning engaged in a close game on New Year’s Eve that resulted in New York winning in a shootout, 4-3. Barclay Goodrow played well against his former team as he chipped in two goals for the Rangers.

The Rangers dominated the Lightning at home, 4-0. Shesterkin stopped all 38 of the Lightning’s shots on goal in one of his finest performances thus far in 2021-22. Kreider, who is known for his goal-scoring, tallied assists on all three of Zibanejad’s goals.

The Lightning are in a close race at the top of the Atlantic Division, as they are one point behind the first-place Florida Panthers. The Toronto Maple Leafs are near first place in the Atlantic also. The Lightning are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions who will present a challenge to a young Rangers squad. The Rangers are attempting to qualify for the playoffs after rebuilding the last few seasons.

March 20: Carolina Hurricanes

After playing the defending Cup champions, the Rangers will square off against one of their top foes in the Metropolitan Division. The Hurricanes look like a legitimate contender to win the Metro and represent the Eastern Conference in the 2021-22 Stanley Cup Final. Carolina has a well-balanced team that is coached by Rod Brind’Amour, the reigning Jack Adams Award winner.

Rod Brind'Amour Carolina Hurricanes
Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Rangers were dominated by the Hurricanes in a 6-3 loss on Jan. 21. The Hurricanes took control of the game early in the first period, and had a 5-1 lead entering the final period. The deficit was too much for the Rangers to overcome. Tony DeAngelo, the former Ranger, has done well for the team that took a chance in signing him to a one-year contract after his falling out with the Rangers. He had a goal and two assists in the win for the Hurricanes.

There is a good chance that the Hurricanes and the Rangers face-off in a playoff series this year. Based on the first matchup in January, the Hurricanes look like they are a better team than the Rangers. The game on Mar. 20 will be a test for the Rangers to see if they fare any better against the Hurricanes.

March 25 & 29: Pittsburgh Penguins

Toward the end of the month, the Rangers and Penguins will play one another at Madison Square Garden on the 25th and at the PPG Paints Arena on the 29th of March. The two franchises battled previously in their first matchup of 2021-22 on Feb. 26. The Penguins won a close game, 1-0. New York and Pittsburgh are competing with one another in the Metro and appear to be evenly matched teams.

The Rangers and Penguins had several physical confrontations throughout the game. The matchup was a good indication of what a playoff series could be like between the two franchises – a chippy, low-scoring, intense battle. If the season were to conclude today, the Rangers and Penguins would meet in the first round of the playoffs.

Both franchises have good goaltending in the Rangers’ Shesterkin and the Penguins’ Tristan Jarry. The Rangers starting goaltender has a 25-6-3 record in 34 games played, a 1.95 goals-against average (GAA), and a save percentage (SV%) of .941. The Penguins’ number one goalie has played in 43 games and has a record of 26-11-6. His GAA is 2.33 and he has an SV% of .921.

The Rangers have several games on their schedule that will give a good indication of how they can compete against the Metro’s other top teams in the Hurricanes and Penguins. The Rangers will also play against their nearby rivals in the Islanders and Devils. The Rangers have a good opportunity to prove they are capable of winning the Metro in their upcoming games against the Hurricanes and Penguins.

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