The New York Rangers turned in dominant efforts in the first two contests of their first-round series against the New Jersey Devils. My prediction that this series would need seven games to decide a winner appeared less likely to happen following their 5-1 wins in Games 1 and 2. However, the Devils won Game 3 on April 22, 2-1 in overtime, and have made the series more interesting with the fourth contest set to occur on April 24.
Let’s take a look at three Rangers predictions for the remainder of the series versus the Devils.
Igor Shesterkin Has His First Shutout in A Playoff Game
Igor Shesterkin continues to be the heartbeat of the Rangers’ success. I predicted Mika Zibanejad would win the Conn Smythe Trophy in my previous piece. However, the 2022 Vezina Trophy winner is one of the club’s few other players that will be in heavy consideration for that award should New York go on to win a championship in 2023.
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Shesterkin allowed one goal on April 18 during Game 1 on a penalty shot from Jack Hughes and a power play tally in Game 2 to Erik Haula on April 20. He limited the Devils to two goals in Game 3 and is capable of having a shutout in one of the upcoming contests. The Rangers played exceptionally in front of him during the first two games with their shot-blocking. They have also given Shesterkin plenty of offensive support in two of the three contests.
Filip Chytil Has His First Career Postseason Hat Trick
Filip Chytil built on his career-best regular season during the Rangers’ first two victories of the 2023 Playoffs. He had one goal and two assists in the first two games and is primed to be a consistent contributor moving forward. He has been excellent for the club at faceoffs, winning a minimum of 50 percent of his draws during the first three contests.
The 23-year-old center had two multi-point games during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs – in the Game 6 win on May 28 of the second-round series versus the Carolina Hurricanes and during the victory in the first game of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 1. He is capable of scoring multiple goals during a playoff game and could have his first career hat trick during the postseason.
Before the beginning of the first-round series against the Devils, Rangers’ head coach Gerard Gallant said the following about his young center, “Fil’ got bigger and stronger and played a heavier game and everything else followed. He manages the puck real well. When Fil’s going his best, he’s driving that middle ice with the puck and he’s making things happen, he’s pushing back defensemen” (from ‘Improved Filip Chytil set to play key role for Rangers versus Devils,’ New York Post, 4/18/23).
Adam Fox Has A Minimum of Three Points in Each Rangers Victory
Prior to Game 3, Adam Fox had multiple points in the first two games of the series. He has lived up to his reputation as one of the NHL’s best offensive defensemen in the first round against the Devils with four assists in Game 1 and two in Game 2. If the Rangers win two more games against New Jersey, I predict he will have at least three points in each victory.
During the 2022 Playoffs, Fox finished second among defensemen in assists with 18 in 20 games. He had points in every game of the Rangers’ first-round series versus the Pittsburgh Penguins followed by two consecutive contests without a point. He began a new streak of a minimum of one point in eight straight postseason games from May 22 to June 5. The defenseman had at least one point in all 10 of New York’s playoff wins. Suffice it to say, if he contributes a goal or an assist, the club has a good chance to win.
On the defensive side, Fox displayed his shot-blocking ability by leading the team with four shots blocked in their Game 1 win. He is second on the club with eight blocks in three games. He finished third on the Rangers behind Jacob Trouba and Braden Schneider with 125 blocks during the regular season.
The 2021 Norris Trophy winner plays a crucial role in setting up scoring chances on the Rangers’ top power-play unit. Following Game 2, Gallant mentioned during his postgame interview that Chris Kreider is getting more opportunities to score “because Fox is shooting the puck now. Instead of giving it to Mika (Zibanejad) on the side, he’s shooting more pucks and Kreids is getting more opportunities in front of the net.”
If the Rangers win the series in five games, the rest of the league will see that New York is a force to be reckoned with during the 2023 Playoffs. Games 1 and 2 showed the additions of Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko have helped the club be more dynamic offensively. However, Devils goaltender Akira Schmid’s performance in Game 3 has rejuvenated New Jersey as they are one win from evening the series at 2-2. The Rangers have an opportunity to regroup and come out with a strong effort in Game 4 in front of their loyal fans at Madison Square Garden.