What you saw Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh was a preview of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Neither team played poorly, both played an overall solid, tight game with solid goaltending. The big difference in this one and how it can be in many playoff series is that one was able to cash in on an opportunity while the other was unable to.
The textbook makeup of a playoff series is being able to capitalize on your chances. While the Rangers have no issue doing so on special teams, which is critical come playoff time, the Rangers inability to find the back of the net in other situations is becoming a glaring issue.
Saturday in Pittsburgh exemplified an issue with the club in not being a volume shooting team and often trying to be too fancy. The Rangers often get themselves caught up on trying to set up or find the perfect shot rather than trying to get pucks on net from any kind of angle. There are pros and cons to both styles but in the playoffs you’re better suited to throw pucks on net and crash looking for a rebound. The type of game that has become dubbed as the Chris Kreider special, but that’s not really the Rangers style. In the postseason you can’t afford to be too pretty because teams are far better defensively and the goaltending is better than what you see in the regular season.
Outside of having Kreider who loves to drive the net at even strength there’s nobody currently on this roster forward wise in the top 6 who enjoys getting to those dirty areas. While we’re starting to see it emerge more and more with Alexis Lafreniere, this club desperately needs a spark at even strength in order to be a tougher out come spring time.
Much like years past, the one thing this organization cannot afford to do is be fooled into thinking they’re a true contender because their goalie makes up and covers up their issues. Lundqvist for 15 years was the ultimate bandaid and the club found out the hard way that elite goaltending alone can’t win 16 games in the playoffs.
There needs to be a shakeup made to this roster because this team can’t afford to make the same mistake in hoping that the forwards will wake up and cash in when the playoffs roll around. The glaring hole in the top 6 on the wing and the patchwork of third line combinations have to be seen as the top priority. Stellar goaltending even on the levels that Shesterkin is playing at this season can only do so much on its own. For as many pucks that an elite level goalie can keep out of the net, he can’t score goals on his own.