Panthers 3 – Rangers 0 | Concerns under the hood

If the New York Rangers were a car, we’d probably say that despite good looks and appreciable performance on the road, concerns arise when you look under the hood.

No one will take away their President’s trophy. But the fact remains that the 114 points they amassed during the season were essentially attributable to the brilliance of their special teams and their goaltenders. At five against five, the bread and butter of champion clubs in the playoffs, the Rangers were, in 2023-2024, a middle-of-the-pack team. Their flaws hurt them Wednesday evening as the curtain-raiser to the Eastern Association final.

View the meeting summary

This 3-0 defeat against the Florida Panthers was nothing historic. But for New Yorkers, who are behind for the first time in the 2024 series, it must flash several red lights on the dashboard.

The recipe of the season worked wonderfully in the first round against the woeful Washington Capitals. It worked again, albeit to a lesser extent, against the Carolina Hurricanes and their generous goaltender Frederik Andersen.

It didn’t work at all in this first duel against the Panthers. The numerical penalty was certainly excellent, but the numerical advantage came up against a Sergei Bobrovsky in great form.

Igor Shesterkin, for his part, was not bad if we look at his overall performance, but the two goals scored by the felines are largely attributable to him. On the first, that of Matthew Tkachuk, he failed to follow the puck effectively, and the shot, although not devastating, escaped him. On the second, his series of errors was epic:

  1. Coming out of his net to clear the disc, while his defender was probably going to win the race in retreat.
  2. Missing his clearance, which became a turnaround in favor of Carter Verhaeghe.
  3. Losing your bearings while retreating towards your net.

The icing on the cake was obviously Alexis Lafrenière’s own goal, but as this game should never have gotten that far, it is difficult to blame the Quebecer, despite his shaky execution in the sequence.

Meanwhile, Bobrovsky shined, never seeming to be shaken by the Rangers’ good plays. Alex Wennberg, in particular, still does not understand how or why he did not create the tie in the third period.



Igor Shesterkin (31)

However, it would be short to summarize the misfortunes of the Rangers, and consequently the successes of the Panthers, to a goalkeeper duel. Especially when the shots on goal summary is 27 to 23. The chances to score, ultimately, were relatively rare.

However, the Panthers quickly demonstrated an aggressiveness and imposed a pace which betrayed their experience in this area. Organized on defense, aggressive on the forecheck and tough in the neutral zone, they muzzled the Rangers’ attack for a long time, who had only 12 shots on target after two periods. According to the scoresheet, the locals also committed 12 turnovers, compared to two for the visitors. Whatever anyone says about this statistic, it is fairly representative of the match.

The Panthers also won the good old war of “depth”, notably with a fourth trio which, failing to register in the score, eclipsed the fourth opposing unit. Aleksander Barkov’s unit stifled all the Rangers’ guns when they were on the ice together. And Matthew Tkachuk, with ease, scored his fourth winning goal in five career conference final games. Who will be its New York equivalent? Chris Kreider? Maybe. Otherwise, we don’t see.


Mika Zibanejad (93) and Aleksander Barkov (16)

In the Blue Shirts camp, we could list all the known clichés about the series which is still young. But there is reason to question the very identity of this team, which only has six games left to beat four times the team which has allowed the second lowest total of goals in the NHL this season.

There will also be many questions about the Rangers’ ability to respond blow for blow to the Panthers. Despite a similar number of hits (29-28 for the Floridians), the New Yorkers sometimes seemed overwhelmed by the intensity of their opponents. It was particularly obvious at the very end of the match, while the Rangers were playing six against five and again in the very last seconds, when defender Niko Mikkola destroyed Filip Chytil without anyone seeming to mind.

On television and on social networks, at the end of the evening, people were already enthusiastically suggesting throwing Matt Rempe into the fray for the second game. If the goal is to intimidate the Panthers, we have to believe that it will take more than an attacker who generally only plays in the first period or so.

Above all, if it appears to be the best solution available among the Rangers, this will confirm that under a gleaming hood, there is an engine that will not have the power to win the race.

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