Playoff matchups towards the Penguins represented an annual ceremony of passage by the center of the previous decade. These have been the salad days of Alain Vigneault’s reign behind the bench in which the Blueshirts skilled their biggest success because the mid-’90s.
This mini-era in which the Rangers went to the Cup Final in 2014 after which gained the Presidents’ Trophy with the NHL’s finest document a year later earlier than shedding the 2015 convention finals in seven video games, represented the fruits of the reconstruction that had begun a decade earlier underneath normal supervisor Glen Sather and was directed from behind the bench by Tom Renney, then John Tortorella after which Vigneault.
The Rangers certified for the playoffs 11 instances in the primary 12 years of the onerous cap period — make that the Henrik Lundqvist Era — that commenced with the 2005-06 season. They superior previous the primary spherical seven instances and went to the convention finals on three events in the four-year span from 2012 by 2015 in which they performed a league-high 76 postseason contests.
There have been distinct variations of that group, the Black-and-Blueshirts underneath Tortorella evolving into Vigneault’s multi-dimensional groups on which Lundqvist was the widespread denominator. By definition the Rangers have been flawed, unable to take the Cup regardless of turning into the one workforce in NHL historical past to overcome 3-1 collection deficits in consecutive years and going 15-4 in elimination video games in these 4 highlighted years.
But you knew fairly nicely what you have been going to get from these groups. They have been a big-game workforce with gamers who would reply, going 6-0 in Game 7s…till they finally didn’t reply and till they have been shut out at residence in Game 7 by the Lightning in 2015 (after getting shut out at residence in Game 5).
Those Rangers had just about been by all of it, beginning in 2012 after they had to come again from 3-2 towards Ottawa with Game 6 on the street in a very nasty first spherical. It was that collection in which Chris Kreider made his NHL debut, lower than two weeks after being half of Boston College’s Frozen Four NCAA championship.
Kreider, who stuffed the lineup spot that opened for Game 3 after Carl Hagelin had been suspended for concussing Daniel Alfredsson with an elbow, grew with the workforce. He has been by all of it. He was a important part of the workforce that beat the Penguins in seven in 2014, took them out in 5 a year later after which have been routed out in 5 video games themselves in 2016.
Those have been the times earlier than the NHL restricted media entry to the locker room, a coverage that was understandably instituted in the wake of the pandemic however stays in place for no logical motive apart from to prohibit entry and management the message. If MLB can open clubhouses to vaccinated and boosted media, the NHL can open locker rooms.
Back then, you could possibly get a way of how groups felt about themselves. Now, not a lot. It would have been attention-grabbing to have the opportunity to try to get a pulse of this group previous this first-round collection towards the Penguins that opens on the Garden on Tuesday in the Blueshirts’ first playoff match in 5 years, however now there may be reliance solely on others’ — and events’ — observations.
Vigneault’s Rangers have been cool, calm and assured after years of trial (and error), Gerard Gallant’s squad hasn’t been by any of this. Mika Zibanejad, who was right here for the 2017 playoffs in which the workforce beat Montreal in the primary spherical earlier than being ousted by Ottawa in the second spherical, is the one different participant on the roster who has playoff expertise whereas sporting a Ranger uniform. There is not any precedent on which to rely — or smash — for this workforce.
But Kreider, who achieved a doctorate in net-front presence whereas rising as a Zen-like, 52-goal-scorer after by no means beforehand having hit the 30-mark, mentioned that he couldn’t essentially detect a distinction between this membership’s atmosphere and that of Vigneault’s golf equipment.
“It’s hard to say. It feels like a long time ago now and I was in a different position, kind of being a young guy on that team and just worried about not stepping on eggshells,” No. 20 mentioned earlier than the opener. “But I feel regardless of whether or not a workforce has been to the playoffs a number of years in a row, is veteran, is younger, there’s at all times pleasure this time of year.
“There are always butterflies and guys are just excited to come to the rink and they are excited to compete and play.”
All proper, there are similarities off the ice. Now we’ll study whether or not there are similarities on the ice. But wait, there may be one hypothetical dissimilarity that will be unanimously embraced. That can be successful the Stanley Cup.