With the Stanley Cup Final underway, it is a good time to look at a couple of clubs that were eliminated and see exactly why their season ended. Today we look at the two Conference finalists who got further than many had predicted but fell short of reaching the Cup Final.

New York Rangers

What went right?

Igor Shesterkin. End of sentence. The 26-year-old Russian is the heavy favorite to win the Vezina Trophy and was nominated for the Hart after a season for the ages, going 36-13-4, with a league-best 2.07 GAA and league-best .935 save percentage. After struggling early in the Penguins series, Shesterkin found his form and was the difference in the series wins over Pittsburgh and Carolina.

The Rangers also got career years out of Chris Kreider (52 goals), Artemi Panarin (96 points), Mika Zibanejad (81 points), and Adam Fox (74 points), and in the playoffs youngsters Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and K. Andre Miller showed remarkable growth.

What went wrong?

The injury to Ryan Strome during the playoffs exposed New York’s weakness up the middle after Zibanejad, which was something they could not recover from against Tampa Bay. The Rangers were also guilty of relying too much on Shesterkin, giving up a ton of high-danger chances. Gerard Gallant’s coaching style may have stunted the growth of youngsters like Lafreniere, and Kaapo Kakko (who was healthy scratched in Game 6 vs. Tampa).

What will they do?

GM Chris Drury has made some tough decisions to make and not enough cap space to work with. New York would like to bring back pending UFA’s Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte, Frank Vatrano, and Strome, but will not be able to do that with less than 12 million under the cap. He also has to think about new contracts for Lafreniere and Miller, with one year left on their entry-level deals.

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Edmonton Oilers

What went right?

Edmonton was able to make the playoffs and beat out Los Angeles and Calgary on the strength of the offense generated by superstars Connor McDavid (123 points) and Leon Draisaitl (110 points), who each scored more than double the number of points than the next. highest scorer on the club. The addition of Zach Hyman improved the Oilers penalty killing and defense up front, while the risky mid-season signing of Evander Kane proved to be a success, with 22 goals in 43 regular-season games and 13 goals in 15 playoff games.

What went wrong?

The Oilers had to overcome a mediocre defensive corps, below-average goaltending, and a lack of quality forward depth to reach their first Conference Final since 2006. GM Ken Holland could not upgrade the tandem of 40-year-old Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. the last two off-seasons. Smith battled injuries throughout the year and his inconsistency cost Edmonton in the playoffs, while Koskinen put up pedestrian numbers (3.10 GAA, .903 save percentage) in 45 games. Edmonton relied heavily on Darnell Nurse and youngster Evan Bouchard due to Tyson Barrie’s weakness in the defensive zone and the decline of Duncan Keith and was forced to overplay their top forwards during the playoffs, mostly because of a lack of production from their bottom six.

What will they do?

With Koskinen signing in Switzerland and Smith possibly retiring, Holland will once again be in the goalie market for a starter or perhaps two goalies. Keith returning for another season is up in the air and it is possible that the Oilers could buy out an ineffective Zack Kassian or trade Barrie to open up cap space to re-sign wingers Kane, and Kailer Yamamoto and add more help up front and on defense.

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