Welcome to the latest edition of Rangers News & Rumors. The New York Rangers begin their first-round series against the New Jersey Devils on April 18. The series is anticipated to be entertaining with the potential to go seven games. Both clubs have undergone rebuilds in previous seasons to have the opportunity of competing for a championship.
After missing the playoffs for several years, the Rangers made it to the 2022 Eastern Conference Final. The Devils have qualified for the postseason for only the second time in the previous 10 seasons and are looking to win their first playoff series since 2012. They have the ability to defeat their Hudson River rival in the upcoming series based on their success against them in 2022-23.
Let’s take a look at the upcoming playoff matchup in the latest edition of Rangers News & Rumors.
Devils Have the Advantage At 5-on-5, Rangers Are Better On the Power Play
In his 2023 Playoff Series piece, Alex Chauvancy, who covers the Devils for The Hockey Writers, analyzed from an analytics perspective how New Jersey has the advantage over the Rangers at 5-on-5. The Devils are fourth at Corsi for (CF%) with 54.12 percent and they finished third in Fenwick for (FF%) with 54.31 percent. New York did not fair as well as their opponent in either category; they are ranked 17th in both categories with 49.80 CF% and finished with 50.23 FF%, per Natural Stat Trick.
The Rangers are the superior club on the power play in both categories; they finished third in CF% with 89.97 percent compared to the Devils which are 23rd with 86.28 percent. New York is first in FF% with 89.58 percent while New Jersey finished 22nd with 84.46 percent.
The Devils had one of the better penalty-killing units, ranked fourth with a penalty-killing percentage of 82.6 percent, featuring players such as Nico Hischier, Erik Haula, and John Marino. They will oppose the Rangers’ seventh-ranked power play that had a power-play percentage of 24.1 percent. New York has a plethora of options including Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, and Artemi Panarin to use on the man advantage that has the potential to give New Jersey problems over the course of a seven-game series.
Young Players On Both Teams Will Gain Postseason Experience
Rangers players such as Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, and Kaapo Kakko gained valuable playoff experience last year. The Devils have several young players such as Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Jesper Bratt, to name a few, who will be getting their first opportunity to play in the postseason. New York has the edge in recent playoff experience but New Jersey has some players who can provide leadership to the youth on the roster.
Devils players with playoff experience are Ondrej Palat, who won two Stanley Cup championships in 2020 and 2021 with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tomas Tatar was a member of two clubs that reached the Stanley Cup Final within the last five seasons — the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018 and the Montreal Canadiens during the 2021 Playoffs.
The Rangers’ young players will benefit from another lengthy postseason run. The club has two veterans in Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane whose leadership is crucial due to winning championships previously with other teams. The Russian native was a member of the 2019 St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup-winning team while the former Chicago Blackhawk won multiple championships with the franchise in 2010, 2013, and 2015.
What the Rangers and Devils Are Saying Before Game 1
Based on a tweet from Vince Z. Mercogliano of The Journal News, Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant does not think they have an advantage over the Devils due to making it to last year’s Eastern Conference Final, “You remember when Pittsburgh had more experience before (last year)? It means nothing, and I truly believe that.”
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Rangers captain Jacob Trouba commented on how the club felt about returning to the playoffs this year, “I think guys were excited (when we clinched), but I don’t think it was how it was last year. I think there’s a little bit more of an expectation amongst the group of getting back,” (from ‘Rangers know first-hand the damage a young Devils playoff team can do,’ New York Post, 4/15/23).
Devils head coach Lindy Ruff acknowledged that while the Rangers have more playoff experience, his players are “a bunch of rebels ready to go.”
Goaltending Will Be A Key Factor During the Series
Goaltending is arguably the most significant factor in what club wins a playoff series. The Devils have received a boost from the presence of Vitek Vanecek who has provided stability for their goaltending situation. New Jersey has struggled in previous seasons due to inconsistent play and injuries at the position.
Igor Shesterkin turned in a good season for the Rangers that will put him in the discussion to be nominated for a Vezina Trophy. Linus Ullmark of the Boston Bruins is the favorite to win the award but that does not take away from Shesterkin’s solid year. New York’s netminder is capable of shutting down offenses but will have a challenge in stopping the Devils’ speedy forwards.
Players To Watch
New Jersey Devils – Timo Meier, Vitek Vanecek
After being one of the most sought-after players during the trade deadline, the Devils acquired Timo Meier. He contributed four of his nine goals with New Jersey on the power play and is capable of being a difference-maker on the man advantage in this series.
Vanecek will be getting more postseason experience during the series and he will be vital to whether or not the Devils advance past the first round of the 2023 Playoffs. If he can avoid being inconsistent, he will put New Jersey in a position to defeat the Rangers in the postseason series.
New York Rangers – Artemi Panarin, K’Andre Miller
Panarin has an opportunity to be a crucial part in helping the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup since 1994. With his big-play potential, it seemed he could have produced more in 20 postseason contests last year, particularly at 5-on-5; nine of his 16 points came on the power play. He needs to be more effective at 5-on-5 play to help New York defeat the Devils.
K’Andre Miller continues to be an under-the-radar player to the Rangers’ success. He is a good two-way defenseman considering his ability to be physical, block shots, and be dependable on the penalty kill. The 23-year-old set a new career high in assists with 34 during 2022-23. With a strong postseason against the Devils, the pending restricted free agent will likely receive an extension during the offseason with New York.
Prediction: Which Team Wins?
The Rangers/Devils series will be close that will need seven games to decide a winner. New Jersey was better at 5-on-5 play during the regular season while New York continues to demonstrate their effectiveness as one of the better power-play teams in the NHL.
I have gone back and forth in predicting a winner because of how evenly matched these teams are. I am predicting the Devils win the series due to their ability to be more effective than the Rangers at 5-on-5 play. New Jersey needs to remain disciplined in limiting the amount of penalties they take but has one of the best penalty-killing units that can neutralize New York’s power play.