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Bye Bye Blueshirts

Icon Sportswire. Getty Images.

It's over.

The biggest reason I liked the Rangers chances in my series preview was because, despite getting through two rounds, the Panthers weren't playing consistently well. I was confident the Blueshirts would be able to get by anything less than Florida's best. Well, similar to how the now back-to-back Eastern Conference champs seem to get better as the games go on, this squad hit their stride in a major way as their playoffs went on. Despite the series going 6 with 3 ending in OT and 5 decided by just a lone goal there was no mistaking who the better team was. The Panthers were bigger, stronger, hungrier and virtually mistake-free while rarely surrendering a split second of time or an inch of space. Impressive performance.

As for the Blueshirts, it's more of the same. Yeah it's pretty good to be a team that's been six wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup in two of the last three years. Still, another disappearing act from their big guns is the biggest reason why. Panarin and Zibanejad couldn't get a single thing going all series and quite frankly the last three games of the Carolina series as well. Check out these numbers from the two once the Rangers 7-0 playoff start came to an end and it's no coincidence they finished 3-6:

Artemi Panarin: 1 too little, too late 6x5 goal along with 5 assists, -4 & 14 giveaways 

Mika Zibanejad: 0 goals, 4 assists, even & 11 giveaways

Just an abysmal effort when their team needed them most, and it's not the first time. The Blueshirts biggest offensive weapons went silent after two dominant wins in New Jersey before choking the series away. Panarin went pointless after the first period of the first game while Zibanejad could only muster one goal all series. Two years ago Zibanejad actually carried the offense all postseason (24 points in 20 games) but it was he and Panarin mustering one meaningless goal between them as their squad could only bury three in the final three games to - surprise! - blow a 2-0 series lead to TB.

It's gotten progressively worse with each postseason and, regardless of whether you wanna scapegoat Trouba's several lowlights or anyone else, the bottom line is you're not winning many playoff games when you can't put the puck in the net. After stealing a 2-1 series lead the offense dried up. Just 5 total goals over the final three Florida wins - two scored down a pair & with Igor pulled - put an end to their year with a whimper and there's no other place to place the blame than their two highest-paid forwards. Credit to the Panthers for shutting them down but it's a pattern now.

A pattern fans legitimately have to wonder how possible it is for this current Rangers core to break.