Jastremski: Comeback Rangers advance to Round 2

Postseason Series fascinate me on so many different levels as a sports fan.

After all, the loser sees their season come to an end, but it’s much more than that.

It’s the heightened drama, suspense, and all of the twists and turns that accompany intense games between two of the same teams over a week to two-week span.

New York Rangers fans experienced the rollercoaster of emotions that a playoff series can provide over the last two weeks.

A week ago, the Rangers season was on life support.

After a feel-good regular season, the first four games of their 1st round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins were nothing short of a nightmare.

The Rangers lost both games 3 and 4 in Pittsburgh and to make matters worse, star goaltender Igor Shesterkin was pulled in each game.

The onslaught of Penguins goals in Game 4 didn’t exactly inspire confidence that a comeback was possible.

Something changed in the Rangers returning home for Game 5.

Rangers Head Coach Gerard Gallant called the team soft following the Game 4 loss. Personally, I thought it was a desperate ploy by a coach of a dead team trying to wake his team up.

Guess what, it worked.

The Rangers sense of intensity and determination was all over the ice in the final three games of the series.

They were down 2 goals in Game 5 and came back to win.

Game 6, they returned to Pittsburgh, the scene of the Game 3 and 4 horror show, and proceeded to overcome yet another two-goal deficit.

In Game 7, the Rangers trailed late in the third period, but Mika Zibanejad’s clutch game-tying goal set the stage for Artemi Panarin’s series-clinching goal in overtime.

The Rangers’ star players were quiet for the first four games of the series. However, in their final three wins, they were instrumental to their success.

Zibanejad and Panarin struggled for the first five games of the series but responded in a big way. The same could be set for netminder Igor Shesterkin.

Shesterkin found his comfort zone and got back to the winning style of play that was on display throughout the regular season.

The Rangers won a series that in many ways validates their feel-good regular season.

Up next for the Comeback Kids, the Carolina Hurricanes. A team that knocked the Blueshirts out of the 2020 COVID Bubble Tournament and dominated the head-to-head regular-season match-ups.

Unlike the last series against Pittsburgh, the Rangers are underdogs heading in.

Let’s see what other twists and turns await “The Comeback Kid” Rangers in the roller coaster ride that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs…

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. We will have episodes following Game 1 on Wednesday & Game 3 on Sunday. Plus you can catch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight following the Mets on SNY.