The New York Rangers showed some life in Game 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes, but it was too little, too late.
Prior to the season, New York Rangers fans weren’t expecting to see the Blueshirts in the playoffs in 2020. Obviously, this wasn’t a normal trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Qualifying Round equates to playoff hockey.
Making the playoffs is an important step in the rebuild in and of itself, but the Rangers’ bubble hopes were deflated in a hurry. For a moment in Game 3, Chris Kreider gave fans a glimmer of hope, but the Carolina Hurricanes quickly took back control after this shot of life.
— ESNY (@EliteSportsNY) August 5, 2020
The hope for the Rangers was fleeting and this game was a microcosm for the entire series. Brief flames of positivity were quickly extinguished by the Hurricanes. It’s fitting considering how ripped up the greater New York area is in the wake of Hurricane Isaias.
Here are three takeaways from Carolina’s sweep of the Rangers
Igor Shesterkin Arrived Too Late
Igor Shesterkin is the future in net for the Rangers. New York’s midseason hot streak was fueled by the Russian netminder and his absence from the first two games left the Rangers fighting an uphill battle before the series even started.
Shesterkin was deemed “unfit to play” in Games 1 and 2 and the Rangers had to rely on Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes—more on him later.
We don’t know exactly why the Rangers held Shesterkin back, but there’s no doubt they looked like a different team at the start of Game 3. Shesterkin is the guy now and the Rangers looked a bit more energized with him in goal. Things got out of hand in the third period, but the Rangers are a better team with him in net.
If nothing else, one game of playoff experience is good for the kid, but three would have been better.
Is This The Last Of Henrik Lundqvist?
This is the big question of the upcoming offseason. What will Lundqvist do? It’s clear that this is Shesterkin’s team now, and Alexandar Georgiev is more than a capable backup. Three’s a crowd.
Lundqvist still has one year left on his deal and a no-movement clause, but it’s unclear what he plans to do. Was this shot of Lundqvist on the bench the last we’ll see of him in a Rangers uniform?
Henrick Lundqvist realizing the Rangers wasted his career pic.twitter.com/fLNORcw4px
— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) August 5, 2020
For Lundqvist lovers, there is still a chance he could come back. The Rangers could move Georgiev to a team that thinks he can be a starter and get some kind of compensation in return.
That would leave one year for Lundqvist to mentor Shesterkin before officially passing the torch. Heck, even if he is the backup, it’s one more chance for Hank to finally lift the Stanley Cup.
Possible Silver Lining
As tough as it is to lose a playoff series, this could set up the Rangers for years of success in the future. Each team that loses in the Qualifying Round has a 12.5% chance at landing the first-overall pick in the draft this year.
With Canadian wunderkind Alexis Lafreniere slated to go first, the Rangers could luck into a potential superstar. Adding Lafreniere to a young core that includes Shesterkin and Kaapo Kakko is scary for the rest of the NHL.