Henrik Lundqvist’s expression after the Rangers lost Game 6 to the Ottawa Senators said it all. He had the look of hopelessness, sadness, and discouragement. Lundqvist is 35 years-old and is still looking for his first Stanley Cup, but realistically, the Rangers look to be passed their prime.
Another season, another spring without a Stanley Cup for the New York Rangers. The Blue Shirts fell to the Senators in the second round by a series score of 4-2. The Rangers were in control for most of the series, but had major issues closing out games. The Senators won Game 2 and Game 5 in overtime, after tying each game late in the third period. The feel in the Rangers’ locker room after Game 6 was that they “gave the series away”.
The Rangers, who play in the fierce Metropolitan division, have made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs for seven consecutive years, with a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2014. Unfortunately, they have nothing to show for their success. In the end, winning is what matters in the NHL, and the Rangers’ best chance to win is behind them.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, and Columbus Blue Jackets had tremendous regular seasons, which is why the Rangers were in a wild-card spot heading into the postseason. With the rise of the Carolina Hurricanes, and an expected bounce back year for the Philadelphia Flyers, the Metropolitan division will be even tighter next season.
The core of the Rangers is getting older with every season that goes by, which could lead to a playoff miss for the Rangers as early as next season. The Metropolitan division standings could very well look something like this by the end of next years’ regular season:
- 1. Columbus Blue Jackets
- 2. Washington Capitals
- 3. Pittsburgh Penguins
- 4. Philadelphia Flyers
- 5. Carolina Hurricanes
- 6. New York Rangers
- 7. New York Islanders
- 8. New Jersey Devils
Other than re-signing Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers are set at the forward position. Defenseman Brendan Smith will become a free agent on July 1, meaning that he could be replaced. Kevin Shattenkirk has been rumored to land in New York for next season, which would give the Rangers more mobility on the blue line. With $9.2 million projected in cap space this off-season, signing Shattenkirk could very well be a possibility.
The window has closed
The Rangers are still a good team. The issue? They are in the toughest division in the NHL. Expect the Carolina Hurricanes to take a big step in the right direction along with the Philadelphia Flyers, who have the second overall pick in this years’ draft.
Will we see a change in the core? A big free agent signing? It will be interesting to see what comes next for the Rangers, who could have a very busy off-season.