Welcome to New York Rangers News & Rumors, where we will look at the Rangers beginning the playoffs as the third seed in the Metropolitan Division. Other topics in the news include the Hartford Wolf Pack earning their first Calder Cup Playoff berth since 2015, and Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Lindgren receiving team awards. Let’s take a look at what’s new in the latest edition of Rangers News & Rumors.
Rangers Begin Postseason As Third Seed in Metropolitan Division
Following the New Jersey Devils’ 6-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres on April 11, the Rangers will begin the first round of the playoffs on the road. New York’s opponent in the opening round will either be the Carolina Hurricanes or the Devils. The Rangers match up better with the Hurricanes considering they defeated them last year in the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. New York was also victorious in three of the four regular-season matchups this season against Carolina.
Following the losses of Max Pacioretty (Achilles’ tendon tear) and Andrei Svechnikov (torn ACL) during the regular season, the Hurricanes are entering the playoffs shorthanded offensively. More pressure will be put on Martin Necas and Sebastian Aho to lead them, but other players need to step up.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Teuvo Teravainen are two forwards that need to have good postseasons. Kotkaniemi only had two assists in 14 games during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Hurricanes need him to be capable of producing like what led him to be the third-overall pick of the 2018 NHL Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. Teravainen did well last year for Carolina in the playoffs with four goals and seven assists in 14 games, but has struggled a bit this year with 12 goals and 25 assists in 67 contests.
Entering the 2023 Playoffs, the Devils are in the same position as the Rangers were in during last year’s postseason — a team qualifying for the playoffs coming off of a rebuild. New Jersey underwent a longer absence than New York from the postseason after failing to qualify for nine of the previous 10 postseasons.
The Devils have the potential for a substantial run in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers do have the edge over their division rival in recent postseason experience due to their appearance in the 2022 Eastern Conference Final. However, the Devils were successful against New York this season, going 3-0-1 in four contests.
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Both clubs acquired veteran players with previous Stanley Cup-winning experience — last offseason the Devils signed Ondrej Palat, who won back-to-back championships in 2020 and 2021 with the Tampa Bay Lightning. During the trade deadline this year, the Rangers acquired Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane who each won Stanley Cups with their respective franchises in the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks.
Hartford Wolf Pack Qualify for the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs
The Rangers’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, qualified for the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs following a 5-3 win against the Providence Bruins on April 8. The Wolf Pack are in the postseason for the first time since 2015 and will face the Charlotte Checkers, in a best-of-three first-round series. If Hartford is victorious against Charlotte, they will face the Atlantic Division’s number-one seed, the Hershey Bears, in a best-of-five division semifinal series.
Tanner Fritz, Turner Elson, and Jonny Brodzinski are some of the Wolf Pack’s forwards that contributed to their return to the playoffs. Louis Domingue led Hartford between the pipes with a save percentage (SV%) of .909 and 2.57 goals against average (GAA) in 44 games played. Notable blueliners for the club include Zac Jones, Ty Emberson, and Matthew Robertson.
Brodzinski, the team captain, received the AHL Player of the Month award for March with 11 goals and nine assists. Will Cuylle, who excelled with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), continues to progress in his young career. The Toronto, Ontario, native did well in his second season in the AHL as he finished with 25 goals and 44 points in 67 games.
Lindgren Wins the 2022-23 Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award
Lindgren received recognition for his value to the club as he was the choice to receive the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award this year. McDonald, a Rangers fan, was a New York City police detective who was shot and suffered an injury in the line of duty on July 12, 1986. The club began naming a winner of the award after him beginning in the 1987-88 season. He passed away on Jan. 10, 2017.
The Minneapolis, Minnesota, native is only the third Rangers defenseman to win the award — Brian Leetch received it in 1996-97 and Adam Fox won in 2020-21. The award is given each year to the member of the roster who “goes above and beyond the call of duty.”
Lindgren commented on receiving the award, “It’s a huge honor, what that award represents. You think about New York City, the people that sacrifice. To get that kind of appreciation, it means a lot.”
Zibanejad Wins Team MVP Award
Mika Zibanejad has arguably been the Rangers’ most important player this season. At the time of this writing, he has 39 goals with one more regular-season contest remaining. If he reaches 40 tallies, it would be only for the second time in his career as he scored 41 goals in 57 games during the 2019-20 season with New York.