RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 30: Barclay Goodrow #21 of...

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 30: Barclay Goodrow #21 of the New York Rangers and Vincent Trocheck #16 of the Carolina Hurricanes wait for the puck to drop prior to a face-off during the first period in Game Seven of the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on May 30, 2022 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) Credit: Getty Images/Jared C. Tilton

No one player is an island unto himself in the NHL, not even transcendent talents such as the Oilers’ Connor McDavid or the Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon in the Western Conference Final. Nor can playoff series be distilled into personal matchups such as the goalie battle between the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin and the Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy in the East.

“I feel like, sometimes, you guys like to oversimplify the game of hockey and make it about individual players against individual players when, in reality, it’s 20 guys versus 20 guys,” Chris Kreider chided the media before Wednesday night’s Game 1 at Madison Square Garden.

Still, some players do have the potential to bring just a little bit more – be it intangibles or on-ice skill – into a playoff series.

A potential X-factor for the Rangers as they try to upend the two-time champion Lightning is Barclay Goodrow, a heart-and-soul depth forward who just happened to lift the Stanley Cup the previous two seasons with Tampa Bay.

The Lightning are deep, talented, have the experience of winning and Vasilevskiy, until proven otherwise, is the planet’s best goalie (though Shesterkin has closed that gap). In other words, this is exactly why Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury sent a seventh-round pick to the salary cap-strapped Lightning on July 17 to acquire Goodrow, beefing up the bottom six and importing his playoff experience to a relatively inexperienced club. That included Goodrow’s run to the conference finals with the Sharks in 2019.

“That, for sure, is a big piece of it,” Drury said. “What he went through in San Jose. Winning the back-to-back Cups with Tampa. All our homework about him on and off the ice, what a character player he was and the things he could do, not only in the playoffs but in the regular season to help create and build and a keep a culture. He’s done everything possible to do that.”

The Rangers survived much of the first two rounds without Goodrow, who suffered a lower-body injury in Game 1 against the Penguins before the Rangers wound up rallying from a 3-1 series deficit. It was no coincidence Goodrow’s return to the lineup in Game 6 against the Hurricanes at the Garden as coach Gerard Gallant put him on the fourth line to center Tyler Motte and Ryan Reaves coincided with the Rangers’ two most dominant performances of the second round to rally from a 3-2 series deficit.

The New York Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. Credit: Newsday/Robert Cassidy

“You can’t say enough about him,” Ryan Strome said. “We could probably sit up here for 10, 15 minutes and go on about what he brings. I think when the crowd cheered for the starting lineup for Game 6, when he started, it was pretty cool. I think that says a lot about what he brings as a person and as a player.

“Even last game, sprawling out in the second period a few times. Blocking shots with every body part and just getting the job done. He’s been there. He’s done it. He knows what it takes. He’s a huge part of our team. It’s tough to imagine our group without him. We’re really lucky to have him.”

The Rangers are certainly hoping their gain is, at the same time, very much the Lightning’s loss and a possible swing factor in the series.

A huge part of the Lightning’s two runs to the Cup was their uber-effective third line of Goodrow with Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman. All three are gone now, Gourde to the expansion Kraken and Coleman as a free agent to the Flames. The Lightning couldn’t afford to keep either Coleman or Goodrow, who immediately signed a six-year, $21.85 million deal with the Rangers to more than triple his cap hit, and they couldn’t protect everybody in the expansion draft.

Goodrow, too, has moved on. Asked to give a sneak peak of how the Lightning would approach this series, he said, “I don’t know what they’re feeling.”

“They want to get back to the Final and so do we,” Goodrow said. “We’re halfway to getting to what we eventually want to accomplish. It’s another team and it’s going to be a good challenge.”

One Goodrow could help tilt in the Rangers’ favor.


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