Rangers first round predictions: Vibes/60 off the charts
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10: Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers and Chris Kreider #20 talk on the ice during the third period against the Los Angeles Kings at STAPLES Center on December 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

We saved the best BSB predictions for last, as we now review the Rangers first round predictions from the team here. Yesterday, we reviewed the rest of the first round matchups, but now it’s the stressful stuff. Did we jinx the Rangers? Are we too overconfident? What are your Rangers first round predictions?

Russ: NYR in 5

The one we’ve all been waiting for. The Rangers have not gotten the respect they deserve from the league all year and even though they’ve improved immensely since the trade deadline some stats guys and analysts refuse to give them credit. That’s ok. The Rangers will take care of business in round one and dispatch a Penguins team whose time has come to an end.

The Rangers have all the ingredients needed to go all the way in the playoffs. Superstar winger? Artemiy Panarin is a superstar and can hang with any player in the league. Number one center? Mika Zibanejad has blossomed into a spectacular number one center during his time in New York. Top-six scoring winger? Christopher James Kreider scored 52 goals this year. Number one dman? Adam Fox is a Norris winner. Franchise goalie? Igor Shesterkin is the best goaltender in the NHL. Also worth mentioning is the rise of K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba as possibly the Rangers best shutdown pair.

This team is deep, they’re ready for the first games of playoff hockey since 2017 at MSG and they have all the bulletin board material they’ll ever need to prove the doubters wrong.

Rob L.: NYR in 7

From a season perspective, this is actually a well-rounded Penguins team. Since 2007-08, this is their fourth best regular season team in terms of Expected Goals Above Replacement per 60 (which is inherently All Situations). They were a top ten team across all Corsi (Shot Attempts) and Expected Goals (Scoring Chances) metrics on both the for and against side at 5v5, and even had the fourth highest save percentage at 5v5. Their hamstring was shooting: ranking 24th in the league at 5v5 overall.

Since the trade deadline the PIT offense and goaltending has sustained but their defense (shots/chances against) dropped to average or below and their shooting was still average at best. In terms of winning hockey games, they’ve been trending the wrong way for about 20 games.

The Rangers, meanwhile, have been strong defensively since the trade deadline despite some shakier-than-usual goaltending compared to the first 50 games of the season. My primary worry with NYR is the same as it has been all year: generating scoring chances (expected goals) at Even Strength. At 5v5, NYR ranked 28th for the season and 30th in xGF/60 post-deadline at 5v5.

And in this instance, offense is king for the Rangers. The Penguins, even without Jason Zucker for at least one or two games, will create offense at 5v5/EV without a doubt. If NYR can fire back, they usually do well, as has been proven this season. When the Rangers are with 10% of the league average xGF/60 rate (2.25) at 5v5 in a game, their record was 29-10-4 (0.674 win %). When they don’t generate at that rate? 22-14-3 (0.564). Goaltending and solid defense will keep you in most games and allow you to win some, but generating and converting on offense dramatically increases the chances of winning.

Overall I think this will be an uncomfortably close series just because this sport is random and the Penguins are annoying as hell overall.

Becky: NYR in 6

As a staunch non-journalist (I don’t even play one on tv!), I’ve been a pretty unabashed homer for months now. If you’re a listener of Blue Seats Live, you know I said the Rangers could go all the way several months ago when just crawling in to the playoffs was the reality for the boys in blue. Well would ya look at us now? 52 wins, home ice advantage, and… still the underdog? OK.

The Rangers played on the back of Igor Shesterkin for a while – he stole something like 11 wins for the rest of the boys – until Mike Kelly made some systems changes, Chris Drury brought in some talent to round out the offense, and Igor was allowed the chance to breathe. Turns out, this isn’t Cinderella and the chariot won’t turn into a pumpkin at midnight – this Shesterkin guy is just GOOD.

The Penguins did not fare well against the Rangers for the majority of last season, to the point that they tried a little melee because no one on this planet loses worse than a Pittsburgh Penguin (except for Brian Boyle, we see you). They’ve got some injuries while the Rangers will be skating a fully healthy team (except Motte, who we still may see this round). The vibes are high, the friendship is off the charts, and if you show me any other numbers I will combust. Once you’re in the playoffs, ANYTHING can happen – we’re going on faith here. Book it- Rangies in 6.

Rob C.: NYR in 5

Before I make my prediction, I want to acknowledge how great it is just to be back in the playoffs. Five years is a long drought, especially for a team like the Rangers, for whom playoff appearances (if not success) sort of seem like a birthright.

Given the long drought and the overall youth of this 2021-22 squad, you’d think this is a “we’re just happy to be here” situation. But this is a Ranger team that is built to win now, and they started to play like it in January. The solid defense was supplemented by trade deadline acquisitions that deepened the forward group, Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano have fit in seamlessly, with Copp in particular having a distinct “16 game player” feel.

Pittsburgh is solid, but they’re dealing with some key injuries. They will make life difficult for the Rangers because of their solid defense. Don’t expect any help from the officials either; Pittsburgh was the least penalized team in the entire NHL this year (lol). That said, I could see adrenaline carrying the Rangers in Game 1, and if they’re capable of gutting out a tight Game 2 win against a desperate opponent, this could actually be a short series. Yeah, I’m feeling confident: Rangers in 5.

Conall: NYR in 5

Penguins are the team I felt most confident against matchup wise and with Jarry and Zucker potentially out multiple games I feel even better. The Rangers have the better forward group, blue line and goaltender. With the way the Rangers’ game has trended since the trade deadline and with the way they’ve played at home all season I can see them putting the Pens away early.

Dave: Rangers in 5

The Rangers matchup really well against the Penguins. The defense is better, the offensive depth is better, and clearly the goaltending is better. Something brought up yesterday was also how the Rangers have a clear advantage with winning individual puck battles, which is a combination of their speed, strength, and size comparatively to the Penguins. Chris Kreider is the poster child here.

The Penguins are good, so don’t misunderstand the Rangers in 5 prediction. Expect most of these games to be close.

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