Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers outmatch Capitals with depth and balance to move on in playoffs


WASHINGTON (AP) — Dominant in nearly every facet of hockey, the New York Rangers outmatched the Washington Capitals to move on to the second round of the NHL playoffs in sweeping fashion.

They won all four games thanks to talent advantages from the net out, superior special teams and a blend of depth and balance. They’re the first team to advance and in the process looked every bit like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

“The sign of a good team is when there is depth and balance,” said forward Barclay Goodrow, a back-to-back champion with Tampa Bay in 2020 and ’21 who had a goal and two assists in the series.

“Come this time of year, you need everyone on your team,” he added. “Everyone’s leaned on to contribute in whatever way you contribute to your team. … It’s been great for us, and it’s something that we’re going to need to continue.”

Goodrow was one of 10 New York players to score a goal and 14 to register a point against Washington, while Igor Shesterkin stopped 94 of 101 of the shots he faced in another strong showing two years since wining the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender. The Rangers scored two short-handed goals, killed off 15 of 17 Capitals power plays and did enough at 5 on 5 to get through some games that were tighter than the end result indicated.

“I just think that it says that we’re a good hockey team,” said Vincent Trocheck, the Rangers’ leading goal-scorer with three and the best player on the ice all series. “We showed it every game.”

Up next is likely a formidable challenge from the Carolina Hurricanes, who are up 3-1 on the New York Islanders after failing to finish it off in a sweep. The Rangers won two of their three games against Carolina this season, including a 1-0 shutout last month, but also lost 6-1 to the Hurricanes in January.

One benefit they have this time is some extra time off, which players from the deep 2022 run playoff run understand is beneficial after going through seven-game series in each of the first two rounds that time and feeling the toll it took on them in losing to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference final.

“The seven-game series will pile up on you, so, yeah, obviously that’s a big factor, I think, to keep as fresh as we can,” captain Jacob Trouba said. “I also think that was a good experience for us, a learning experience to be put in that situation, so I think that’s going to bode well for us moving forward.”

As will their depth that has so far kept any player from averaging more than 23 minutes of ice time, a far cry from the Capitals needing top defenseman John Carlson to play nearly half of every game because of injuries on their blue line.

New York has not had to overtax Trocheck, Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Mika Zibanejad or MVP candidate Artemi Panarin. Coach Peter Laviolette has “a lot of trust in all our players” and is less worried about matchups against particular opponents because of that balance.

“Anyone can play against anyone,” defenseman Braden Schneider said. “We balance out well and everyone knows their role and plays hard doing it, so I think we do a great job of just being hard to play against no matter who’s out there.”

That helps particularly on the road. Though by winning the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top team during the regular season, the Rangers have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Game 1 against the Hurricanes or Islanders will be at Madison Square Garden — but only after they can take a few days to heal up and get ready for the next step on a journey they hope will take them to the franchise’s first championship since 1994.

Asked how far he and his team can go, Shesterkin muttered only: “We will see.”


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