Rangers, Devils, and Islanders all make playoffs for first time in 16 years


Islanders netminder Ilya Sorokin makes a blocker save.

Devils forward Jack Hughes (left) and Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere (right) battle for the puck during a game

The New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and New York Islanders have all made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season. 

The Devils finished with a record of 52 wins, 22 losses, and 8 overtime or shootout losses. They finished with 112 points, second in the metropolitan division and their 52 wins are the most in team history. The Devils will face the Rangers, who are third place in the metropolitan division. The Rangers finished with a record of 47 wins, 22 losses, and 13 overtime or shootout losses and had 107 points, the seventh most in their history. 

Both teams had clinched playoff spots early on and had many weeks to prepare and get ready for the playoffs. The Islanders, meanwhile, who finished with a record of 42 wins, 31 losses, and nine losses, had to fight till the very end, clinching a playoff spot in their very last game of the season, a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. The Islanders are the first wild card in the Eastern Conference, and will be facing the division winning Carolina Hurricanes in the first round. “We know what we’re capable of,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said after the Rangers 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the regular season. “We know what the goal is. I like our team heading into the playoffs, and we’re ready to get this thing rolling.”

These are three teams who have had very different expectations this season. The Rangers had high hopes after making it to the Eastern Conference finals last season and despite a rocky start, the team has turned things around and remain a top contender. The Devils, who have made the playoffs once since they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012, were expected to continue to rebuild. But after two straight losses to start the year, they turned things around and are one of the biggest surprises this season. The Islanders meanwhile came into the year with hopes of getting back to the playoffs after making it to the conference finals in 2020 and 2021 before missing the postseason last year. It was a challenge for the Islanders who had to fight for every point and didn’t have any idea who they might play until the final day of the regular season. “We’ll just prepare for whoever we have to prepare for when we find out,” first-year Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said after his team clinched a playoff spot. 

“The Devils have proven to be very good this year,” sixth grader Daniel Diaz explained. 

The Devils are led by forward Jack Hughes, who had a franchise record 99 points this season. They also have defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who had one of the best seasons by a defenseman in franchise history. They also have Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Dawson Mercer. The Rangers have forward Artemi Panerin who led the team with 92 points this season and Mika Zibanejad, who led the team with 39 goals and was second in points with 91. They also have defenseman Adam Fox, one of the best d-man in the league. The Islanders have forwards Brock Nelson and defenseman Noah Dobson. They also have forward Mathew Barzel, though he hasn’t played since February 18 with a knee injury. 

The three teams also have three of the best goalies in the league. Igor Shesterkin is the Rangers netminder and has had a strong year this year after one of the best years by a goalie in NHL history.  “Shesterkin is great,” sixth grade Math teacher and die-hard Rangers fan Ryan Belline said. “He can win a game for the Rangers anytime.”

The Islanders also have great goaltending with Illya Sorokin, who is having a terrific year this year as well and is top five in goals-against-average. The Devils have Vitek Vanecek, who is in his first year with the club and is one of the top goalies this year. Another interesting factor in the postseason will be the impact of trade deadline acquisitions. The Islanders traded for forward Bo Horvat in late January and he has proved the Islanders with a big offensive presence. The Rangers traded for Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko and the Devils got Timo Meier in late February. All of these players have made huge impacts on the team and are big reasons for the team’s success late in the year. The Rangers, however, are the only team who got a Stanley Cup Championship winner  at the deadline with Kane and Tarasenko combining for four Stanley Cups.  

They all have strengths and weaknesses. The Rangers have the most playoff experience and have been successful for a longer period of time, but they also play more of a defensive style. The Devils have a fast breakout style offensive style but lack playoff experience, and the Islanders have a good defense, but have the second worst power play in the league. “The Rangers, Devils, and Islanders can all go far until they play the Boston Bruins,” Mr. Belline predicted.  

Aside from the New York-area, there are several contenders around the league. In the east, the Boston Bruins are the favorite after setting the record for wins (65) and points (133) in a season in NHL history. Aside from them, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Carolina Hurricanes are also top teams. Both of them are great offensively and, after depressing playoff exits in the past few years, are hungry to win a cup. In the west, the reigning champions, the Colorado Avalanche, have a good chance of winning. They have a good offense but injuries and questionable goaltending could hurt their chances. Other than them, the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Vegas Golden Knights, and Dallas Stars are favorites. “I think the Bruins will win the Stanley Cup,” said seventh grader Sam Mauryschau. 

Eighth grader Jack Hantman disagreed. “The Rangers” he said would win the cup. 

The first round begins Monday, April 17 with the Stanley Cup Finals beginning in early June. All games of the playoffs can be seen on ESPN, ESPN 2, ABC, TNT, or TBS with the finals being exclusively on TNT. Here is a list of all eight first round matchups. The Boston Bruins vs. Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers vs  Los Angeles Kings, and Dallas Stars vs. Minnesota Wild will begin on Monday, April 17 and game 2 of those series will be on Wednesday, April 19. The New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche vs. Seattle Kraken, and Vegas Golden Knights vs. Winnipeg Jets will begin their playoffs on Tuesday, April 18 with game 2 on April 20. 

The Seattle Kraken are the only team playing in their first ever playoffs, and every team except for Vegas, Winnipeg, the Devils, and Islanders were in the playoffs last year. 

Good luck to everyone in the playoffs.