The Rangers are going to the Eastern Conference Final! This has been a remarkable year for the New York Rangers, qualifying for the playoffs and winning their first playoff series for the first time since 2017. And now, returning to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2015, when they were denied a return to the Stanley Cup Finals by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It's a remarkable run, for a team that seems to defy the odds, coming back to win 27 of their 52 regular season wins. Coming back from 1-3 and 0-2 series deficits in the playoffs - including after trailing 0-2 in Games 5 and 6 of the first round against Pittsburgh. In Raleigh, they broke a seven game winning streak by the home team in their building.
If there's one thing we've learned about Gerard Gallant's New York Rangers, it's that they seldom dominate, biut should never be counted out. Sure Igor Shesterkin is a big reason, his return to form late in the Pittsburgh series has really been the anchor for the Rangers to play their game, but that's been true for much of the year.
It shouldn't be overlooked that this team has a lot of guys who are young in their post-season careers, and yet haven't looked overawed at all. They're also getting timely production from Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Adam Fox to pace the team, while Andrew Copp keeps finding ways to accumulate goals and points. Artermi Panarin may not be dominating, but he's also steadily been accumulating points even while playing below his best.
But as much as the offense has been a ticket to success, there's been contributions up and down the line. Tyler Motte and Barclay Goodrow both returning from injury has helped a team that looked thin at times during the first series. Ryan Lindgren's ability to keep coming back after the physical toll his body has taken, has been inspiring, and the steady play of a 20 year old Braden Schneider along with 35 year old Justin Braun, has provided a reliability factor on their bottom pairing.
Then there's the kid line. Finally reunited for the playoffs, timely goals from Filip Chytil - who has game winners in Game 5 against the Penguins, and Game 6 against the Hurricanes, both elimination games - has given the Rangers that added offensive threat. Alexis Lafreniere now has 7 points across the 14 games, and even Kaapo Kakko shown good puck poise in Game 7 against the Hurricanes, picking up an assist on Chytil's goal.M
Meeting the defending Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference is obviously a tough ask, but at this point you can't count out this team until there are no more games to play.
I'm not sure what to make of this upcoming series, but I can tell you it's been a ride to date, and I don't want it to finish just yet.