The Rangers tend to be good enough to get your hopes up, only to rip your heart out. That’s how you end up with fewer championships than the rest of the Original Six, plus others. If you’re a fan, you’ve seen them lift the Stanley Cup once — if you’re lucky.
Well, maybe not for long.
It’s OK to start dreaming, even after the Lightning got back into the series Sunday in Game 3. The Rangers are two wins from an Eastern Conference title starting with Tuesday’s Game 4. Six wins from the cup. You can believe now.
They have the goaltender. They have scoring. They have the defense. Now the Rangers just have to follow through.
Igor Shesterkin. In baseball, you need elite starting pitching. You need a star scorer in basketball you need the unstoppable superstar scorer and an elite defense in football. In hockey, you need the hot goalie. The Rangers have that in Shesterkin. He has been nothing short of sensational.
Shesterkin has posted a 2.60 goals against average and a .929 save percentage, this postseason. And remember, that includes two fluky games in the Pittsburgh series where he yielded a combined 10 goals. where Shesterkin was credited with giving up four and six goals against. He’s been lights-out since.
Scoring. Artemi Panarin has been his steady self all postseason. Mika Zibanejad has 10 goals and 20 points since he was challenged against the Penguins. Chris Kreider also has 10 goals for a career-high 52 during the regular season. Reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox leads all defensemen this postseason with 23 points and has drawn lofty praise.
The Kid Line. Filip Chytil, Kappo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenierre have come into their own. They are not only producing; they are changing how the game unfolds. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper has to match his top pairings against the Rangers’ top two lines. That leaves the door open for the Kids. They are delivering. And if Cooper adjusts? That will create more opportunities for the veteran stars. It’s a great problem to force upon the Bolts.
They can beat the Avalanche. Can Colorado score? Yes, but so can the Rangers. And defensive isn’t an optional activity for the Blueshirts. Fox, K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba are elite defenders in front of Shesterkin. They should be able to slow the Avs down come the cup finals. If the Rangers can light up Andrei Vasilevskiy, they can score on Colorado.
It’s not time to plan a sick day for the parade yet. But the Rangers can get there. It’s OK to start dreaming.