If the New York Rangers really were tired, then the New Jersey Devils certainly didn’t help matters. The Blueshirts’ local rivals didn’t humiliate them, but they did enough to prove their superiority and ultimately bump the East’s top seed out of the playoffs with a 4-2 series win thanks to a 3-2 OT win.
Blame it on fatigue if you want, but the Devils were just too much for the Rangers. New Jersey had too much talent; Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise proved to be a superior one-two punch compared to Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. The Devils boasted too much depth as Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta scored huge goals. Ultimately, their forecheck was just too fierce and the Blueshirts found themselves chasing the Devils more often than not in the series.
Who takes the blame?
Michael Del Zotto is the easy scapegoat for the Rangers, and no doubt about it, he was on the ice for many of the team’s worst moments. You can say that he still has some room for improvement.
That shouldn’t excuse Richards and Gaborik, though, as they were often MIA in this six-game series. Gaborik, in general, was quite inconsistent in this year’s playoffs. It’ll be interesting to hear if the fragile star has been fighting off injuries because he wasn’t very good – not exactly what you want to see from a winger who registers a $7.5 million annual cap hit.
Overall, there weren’t many Rangers who will look back at this series without at least a slight feeling of regret.
What will they do about it?
If you believe the whispers, the Rangers might still be in the Rick Nash sweepstakes. Depending upon what he’d cost, that move might just be worth it because New York could use a boost. At the same time, Glen Sather’s lust for splashy moves has been a double-edged sword; his expensive imports have only worked out relatively well recently. (See: Holik, Bobby and Gomez, Scott, among many others.)
The Rangers have plenty of youth beyond their big-name guys, though, so it’s reasonable to assume that there could be some improvement from within. Henrik Lundqvist probably has a few more elite years left and surely you’ve heard all the gushing reviews about youngsters such as Chris Kreider.
The future still should be bright in the Big Apple, yet one cannot help but wonder how many times they’ll be able to avoid formidable East teams, like their division mates in Philly and Pittsburgh.