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Home News Shesterkin’s wasted effort, Panarin’s and Tarasenko’s failures: Rangers lose to New Jersey and drop out of Stanley Cup
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Shesterkin’s wasted effort, Panarin’s and Tarasenko’s failures: Rangers lose to New Jersey and drop out of Stanley Cup

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

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As the regular season progressed, the team from New York emerged as one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup. A year ago Gerard Gallant’s wards reached the conference finals, where they lost only to the East’s hegemon in recent years – the Tampa Bay Lightning, but since then they have only gotten stronger. The star leaders Artemiy Panarin and Mickey Zibanejad were at their peak, reigning Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin continued to prove his status as one of the league’s best goalies, and the talented Alexey Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko continued to gain experience and progress. At the same time, the team was joined by experienced veterans who already had experience of big wins. The Rangers traded Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane shortly before the end of the roster period, further solidifying their claim to the trophy.

As the playoffs progressed, however, their hopes of success began to fade. New York got off to a great start and defeated the Devils twice in a row by a combined score of 10-2, but the team’s leaders began to have tremendous problems after that. Lafreniere and Kakko were not up to the task and combined for only two points, Zibanejad and Tarasenko had a number of bad meetings, Kane stopped scoring after the fourth game and had 6 (1 + 5) points to begin the game. Panarin’s game was cut short as well. He had a five-game losing streak and only two assists in his key road trip to New Jersey.

At the right moment, the Rangers couldn’t pull themselves together and overcome their crisis. Yes, they attacked more and disrupted Akira Schmid 31 times in total, but were unable to break through the Swiss. Schmid had a phenomenal performance, becoming only the fifth rookie goalie in history to keep his goal intact in Game 7 of the series. Glenn Roesch, Felix Potvin, Carey Price and Ilya Bryzgalov had done it before.

Shestyorkin was also excellent and for a long time he carried his suddenly unlearned scoring partners. And while he had to show his prowess a bit less frequently than Schmid, his saves looked far more impressive. It’s hard to count the number of times he had to stretch out in the twine to stop the ever bothersome Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes and Dawson Mercer. But it couldn’t go on forever.

In the second period, Shesherkin missed twice less than six minutes apart. Both goals were fairly similar and illustrated just how weak the Rangers looked on the court. First, they allowed Michael McLeod to hit the goaltender, who was already sprawled out on the ice, and then Tomas Tatard did the same. No sooner had the Russian returned to the upright position after his attempt to stop John Marino, than the Slovakian poked the puck over his right shoulder.

The final stretch was like agony for the Rangers. They went on the attack, but could create nothing worthwhile up front and allowed only one counterattack after another. During one of those, Shestyorkin was nearly injured when Nico Hischier, who had lost his balance, ran to his feet. The Russian was so angry that he fired the puck at his teammate Erik Haula, who hit the empty net. However, the goal was not counted – K’Andre Miller was given two minutes for fouls.

Later, Haula got his goal. On another incisive counterattack by the visitors, he took a pass from Hughes and hit Shesherkin, cutting the visitors’ chances to a minimum. Bratt put the game to bed when he hit the empty net for the Rangers. Galland’s team suffered a crushing defeat in the seventh game (0:4) and could not overcome the first round of the NHL playoffs. And now not only the future of this project in general, but also its leaders in particular, is unclear. All of them failed in their series with New Jersey, and Panarin failed to score in six straight meetings.

Two more sensational stories broke out in the NHL a day ago. One was a showdown between the best team in the NHL and the eighth team in the Eastern Conference. “Boston was considered the clear favorite to win the series with Florida and for a long time confirmed its status, winning three of its first four games. But then something inexplicable began to happen to Jim Montgomery’s team. First the Bruins suffered an upset loss in overtime (3-4), then lost in a tremendous 12-point shootout (5-7), as a result of which the fate of a Stanley Cup quarterfinal berth was to be decided in the seventh meeting.

True, even at that point, few bets were placed on Florida. The key game took place at the legendary TD Garden, where the home team was nearly unstoppable. In the regular season, Boston took the lead in 34 of their 41 home games and lost only three times in regulation time. This time, however, things went wrong all at once. By the 22nd minute the President’s Cup winners were already trailing 2-0, and none other than Sergei Bobrovsky was one of the originators of Brandon Montour’s goal. It was the Russian goalie who started the attack, which ended with an unstoppable shot by the defender.

“The Bruins answered and took the lead midway through the third period. David Krejci, Tyler Bertuzzi and David Pastrnjak each netted a shot for Bobrovsky, with the first two assisted by Dmitry Orlov. The Russian guard looked more than impressive in the first round of the playoffs with eight assists. He’d surely trade all that for an opportunity to prevent Montour from regaining parity with just over a minute left in the period and thus delaying the showdown until overtime. In the episode with the third missed goal, he kept his eye on Florida’s leading scoring threat, Matthew Tkachuk, and could not prevent his teammate from getting the double-double.

The extra 20 minutes didn’t last long, and goaltending was key. Bobrovsky had another outstanding performance, blocking five shots on goal and bringing his total to 33. Jeremy Swaiman looked good as well, but still faltered. Carter Verge received a pass in the paint circle and sent the puck just over the left shoulder of the American goalie. He was powerless.

“Florida” created one of the biggest sensations of the current playoffs, and Bobrovsky became just the seventh goaltender in history to twice beat the regular-season champions in the deciding meetings of the series. In 2019, he helped Columbus take on Tampa Bay (4-0). In addition to him, that bar has been conquered by goaltending legends like Martin Broader, Marc-Andre Fleury, Andrei Vasilevsky and others.

While Boston could use the fact that one of their leaders, Patrice Bergeron, played in the playoffs with a hernia as an excuse, Colorado could complain about the absence of two leaders at once. Gabriel Landeskog had surgery on his knee and was forced to miss the rest of the season, and Valery Nichushkin left the team before the third meeting with Seattle under unclear circumstances. And with a weakened roster, the reigning Stanley Cup champion was unable to cope with the tournament debutants.

Like the Bruins, the Avalanche could very well cite bad luck. In the decisive game Jared Bednar’s wards outplayed their opponent in terms of the number of shots on goal, and their main star Nathan MacKinnon could score not only a pass, but also a goal, but the game was cancelled due to offside. And the scoring was hampered by problems with realization and a phenomenal performance by Philipp Grubauer. At one time the German won a trophy with Washington and then signed with Colorado, but did not become number one there and was subsequently selected by Seattle in the expansion draft. And he took the first opportunity to get revenge on his former management for betting on other performers.

Grubauer played an impressive game, made 33 saves and was deservedly named second star. He was second only to Oliver Bjørkstrand, who displayed a miraculous realization and made a double-double on six shots. But he might have had a hat trick, had it not been for the sacrifice of Alexander Georgiev. In one of the episodes, he put the puck into the crossbar with his helmet and kept the intrigue alive.

But Colorado’s final assault was inconclusive. Without their star partners, McKinnon with Mikko Rantanen and Kale Makar couldn’t get the upper hand on Seattle and had to capitulate. The Kraken thus became the first playoff debutant in history to overcome the reigning Stanley Cup winner, and the Evelanche fiasco elevated the current championship to unique status. After all, none of the triumphators of the last 16 draws of the tournament could make it to the second round. “Tampa, Los Angeles and Boston were eliminated in the first round, while Washington, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and Anaheim did not make the top 16 at all.

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