The New York Rangers season came to a close in game six as the Senators pulled out a 3-2 win at Madison Square Garden to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
With two goals in the first period, Ottawa came out strong and maintained the lead for the rest of the game. Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad scored 13:32 into the second period to bring the team within one, but defenseman Erik Karlsson netted another just two minutes later to cushion the Senators lead. Less than a minute into the final period, Chris Kreider scored to bring the Blueshirts within one yet again, but an outstanding performance from Senators Goaltender Craig Anderson protected the lead to close out the series.
Put plainly, game six was an uncharacteristic display from the Rangers. They’re elite special teams play plateaued in going 0-4 on the power play, one of which was 4 minutes. Despite putting 39 shots on goal, the Blueshirts failed to put bodies in front of the net allowing Anderson to save 37 of them. In addition, New York had little to no consistency in entering the zone, as Ottawa dominated between the blue lines for most of the game. Last but not least, the Rangers goaltending left a bit to be desired as Henrik Lundqvist saved just 22 of 25 shots. The goals allowed were partially result of defensive error, but the goaltending also failed to meet the playoff caliber game six required. All in all, the team we saw in game six is not the team we are used to.
However, it’s also not a team we should have to get used to. New York came into this series and played as if they had a chip on their shoulder and Ottawa worked hard to humble them, but this series was not one lost because of a skill deficit. The Rangers underestimated the speed and work ethic of this Senators team and allowed Ottawa to outwork them.
That said, at the end of the day, the Rangers have the skill and experience on their roster to be a dangerous contender for the next couple of years. If Lundqvist can continue to perform as he did in the regular season and the Rangers can learn to close out a game defensively, they have as good a chance as any to compete for the cup.
If players like Rick Nash and Dan Girardi can demonstrate leadership out on the ice, especially into the playoffs, the Rangers have huge potential and a great foundation to build up their talented rookies. Rangers’ fans have not seen the last of this team’s playoff efforts.
While the Rangers certainly have reason to be proud of the season and excited for the year to come, the playoffs are not over and the Senators have a tough road ahead. Be it the Penguins or the Capitals, the Eastern Conference Final is going to be a battle and hockey fans everywhere should be excited for what’s in store.