3 Rangers 2023 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions


The 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs mark the New York Rangers’ second consecutive postseason appearance. The organization will attempt to make the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2014 and break its 29-year championship drought. They finished the regular season about where I thought they would back in October, which was among the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division.

Gerard Gallant New York Rangers
Gerard Gallant, Head Coach of the New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Last season, they were a club looking to return to the postseason under new head coach Gerard Gallant. They accomplished their goal and finished two wins shy of reaching the Stanley Cup Final, losing in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. Expectations are higher for them to win a championship in 2023. Let’s take a look at three Rangers’ 2023 Stanley Cup Playoff predictions.

The Rangers-Devils Series Will Go Seven Games

The Rangers will face the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the playoffs, an anticipated opening series that rekindles an old rivalry. New York’s fanbase travels well and many will attend the games at Prudential Center, mixing with New Jersey’s passionate fans in the process. The last time the Rangers and Devils met in the postseason was during the 2012 Eastern Conference Final, which New Jersey won in six games.

Related: Rangers-Devils Playoff Series Would Reignite Their Rivalry

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The Devils played well against the Rangers this year, going 3-0-1 against them. New Jersey is in a similar position that the Rangers were during last year’s playoffs – a team coming off a rebuild with the potential to make it past the first round of the postseason.

The Rangers have the edge at arguably the most important position – goaltending. Igor Shesterkin is as good as any goaltender in the NHL and will help New York be competitive in any game. The Devils will turn to Vitek Vanecek, who has contributed to their turnaround year.

Vanecek played in 52 games, won 33 of his 48 starts, and finished with a 2.45 goals-against average (GAA), and a .911 save percentage (SV%). However, he has had bad games mixed in with great starts this year based on his goals against average. The best way for the Rangers to defeat the Devils is to score early and often as they have shown they are capable of doing throughout their three lines. Mackenzie Blackwood and Akird Schmid, New Jersey’s backup netminders, also are plagued by bouts of inconsistency and need to be steady if either play during the first-round series.

Jack Hughes New Jersey Devils
Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Choosing a winner in this series is difficult due to the Devils’ success against the Rangers during the regular season. Jack Hughes contributed at least one point in all four contests versus New York this year; he had four goals and two assists. New Jersey’s best chance to win is to have the lead in games as often as possible and to keep their penalties to a minimum.

Following the additions of Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane, the Rangers have two more experienced forwards at five-on-five and on their power play. New York can win the first-round series if they can neutralize the Devils’ speedy forwards and score multiple goals over short spans of time. This series is anticipated to be one of the most exciting due to the matchup of a rivalry that has existed for 40 years.

If the Rangers Win the Stanley Cup, Mika Zibanejad Will Receive the Conn Smythe Trophy

Mika Zibanejad led the Rangers last postseason with 24 points in 20 games and was their best player during last year’s playoffs. The only two players who were as crucial to the organization’s success during the 2022 Playoffs were Adam Fox and Shesterkin. Zibanejad ended the regular season with points in eight of his final ten games, which included two goals and ten assists. The 29-year-old forward received the team MVP award as voted by members of the media who cover the franchise.

Among players who have played the majority of games with the Rangers this year, Zibanejad ranked second among skaters with a 78.43% individual point percentage (IPP) at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick. He finished second with a 13.45 score in individual expected goals created (ixG) and first with 175 shot attempts (iCF) on the power play. There was no one better on the man advantage as he led them with 20 goals and 39 points, and finished third with 19 assists.

Zibanejad has fulfilled his potential with the Rangers as he has gotten better each year based on his point production. He tied a career-high with 52 assists and set a new high with 91 points. If New York is going to go on another substantial run this postseason, he needs to be a key contributor to their success. If they win the Stanley Cup, I think he will win the Conn Smythe Trophy.

The ‘Kid Line’ Will Shine During One Series of the 2023 Playoffs

Filip Chytil broke out with seven goals in 20 games during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He followed that stretch with his best regular season which included 22 goals and 23 assists in 74 contests. He was due to be a restricted free agent (RFA) following this year but the Rangers signed him to a four-year, $17.75 million contract extension on March 29.

Filip Chytil New York Rangers
Filip Chytil, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Alexis Lafreniere, who had seven assists in 20 postseason contests last year, and Kaapo Kakko continue to progress in the NHL. Kakko played in all of the regular season contests for the first time in his four-year career while Lafreniere also continued to demonstrate his durability during his third season. The Saint-Eustache, Quebec, native will be motivated to have a strong postseason as the RFA will be looking for a contract extension during the offseason. All three members of the ‘Kid Line’ are streaky in their point production but the trio has the capability to be a difference-maker during at least one playoff series.

If they prove to play a significant part in the club winning multiple playoff series, the fanbase should feel confident in their potential to have bigger roles for the franchise in 2023-24. All three are former first-round draft selections with Kakko and Lafreniere being lottery picks in back-to-back NHL Drafts. Their overall progressions during the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs would give the organization further confidence they made the right choices in selecting them.

The Rangers have a challenging road ahead in making a second consecutive deep run in the postseason. The Devils’ regular season success against New York presents trepidation that they could spoil their chances of reaching the Stanley Cup Final in Gallant’s second year as head coach. If the Rangers make the Eastern Conference Final, a team like the Boston Bruins, who had one of the most successful regular seasons of any club in NHL history, could oppose them and would be the clear favorite to win the series. Winning the Eastern Conference, let alone a championship will be difficult for New York, but that is to be expected with 16 teams having the same goal.

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