The New York Rangers have advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. After going down three games to one against the Pittsburgh Penguins, they came back to win three straight. With their win on Sunday, the Rangers punch their ticket to the second round for the first time since 2017. However, even though it is now over, New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins was the best series in the first round.
New York Rangers Takes Round 1 vs Pittsburgh Penguins
To say this was a crazy series is not enough to describe what happened between these two teams. The Penguins started off without Tristan Jarry, their starter, who had been hurt since April. The Rangers have Igor Shesterkin, who had an incredible regular season earning a Vezina Trophy nomination. Everything was pointing to an easy win by the Rangers – even though a lot of people doubted it. However, things didn’t quite work out that way.
Goaltending Shines and Stumbles
What seemed to be an unfair goaltending matchup ended up being full of surprises. Casey DeSmith got hurt in the second overtime of Game 1 and Louis Domingue had to come and help. Throughout the next five games, he tried to do his best to help – and to be fair, he did. In the six games he played, the Canadian player had a 3-3-0 record and a .898 save percentage. Domingue helped the Penguins go up 3-1 and things seemed to be going strong. Until they weren’t. Because Igor Shesterkin took things personally.
Shesterkin made 78 saves on the triple-overtime loss in Game 1. Then, he helped New York secure the win on Game 4. In Games 3 and 4, Igor Shesterkin heard his name being shouted all over the PPG Paints Arena and that was enough fuel to make him angry. After getting pulled on both games in Pittsburgh, the Vezina finalist went to Game 5 and gave everything he had. This time, it was more than enough. finishing the game with 29 out of 32 saves and a .906 save percentage, the blue shirts won Game 5 to give everyone some hope. After that, the Russian goalie went on to help the Rangers win three straight games to take the series. In the seven games, he had a 4-2-0 record and a .911 save percentage with 3.66 goals allowed.
Offence Take Over Round One
Another point that stands out for this series was the number of goals scored between the two teams. Throughout seven games, Rangers vs Pittsburgh had 57 goals combined, which is twice as much as the goals scored by Dallas and Calgary combined. To say offence was popping off is an understatement. And of course, unsurprisingly both top lines were incredible.
For the Rangers, Mika Zibanejad led the way with 11 points, three goals and eight assists, followed by Norris winner Adam Fox with 10 points. Chris Kreider led the team in goals with five, followed by Andrew Copp with four. Artemi Panarin finished the series tied in third for points but his series-winning goal on Sunday is surely a highlight.
For the Penguins, Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby finished the series tied in points with 10. Guentzel led the team in goals with eight and Crosby in assists with eight. It’s important to note that Pittsburgh’s captain missed Game 6 after sustaining an injury midway through Game 5.
Proving Them Wrong
The Rangers had been struggling to get to the playoffs (and win series when they did qualify) since their loss in the Conference Finals in 2015. They got eliminated in the second round in 2017 and, since then, have missed the playoffs – including a sweep in the qualifying round in the 2020 bubble. When they clinched their playoff spot this year, a lot of people believed they could make it but others highly doubted it. Advancing to the second round just proves that they’re a balanced team that will do what it takes, even with some stumbles along the way. Their young core is contributing and their veterans are doing their job. Next, they’ll have to take on the Carolina Hurricanes, the same team that eliminated them in the 2020 playoffs. This will be a big moment for the young Rangers and surely has a ‘revenge tour’ taste to it.