Artemi Panarin stood in front of his locker in Tarrytown on Tuesday afternoon for the Rangers’ breakup day, after falling two wins short in the Eastern Conference Final a few days prior, describing how high his team was flying less than a month ago when it improved to 7-0 in the playoffs.

The confidence was palpable.

The power play was unstoppable.

The Blueshirts were peaking.

Aleksander Barkov hits Artemi Panarin in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Getty Images

“Especially when we left Carolina up 3-0, we felt so much confidence in our room,” Panarin said. “And it kind of turned in the Florida series.”

Then the reality of how hard it is to reach the Stanley Cup Final set in as the Hurricanes picked up their game to force Games 5 and 6.

The Rangers still prevailed in Round 2, but the Panthers proved to be an unsolvable roadblock as the team that was ultimately bigger, stronger and better.

Having some of the team’s most important players veer off from their strong start, however, certainly played a major role in the Blueshirts’ inability to get over the final conference hump for the second time in three years.

“I wish I scored 15 goals, but I [didn’t],” said Panarin, who posted four game-winning goals through the first seven games before failing to score in the final nine contests until the last 1:40 of regulation of an already-lost Game 6.

Panarin doesn’t feel the same way he did leaving the locker room cleanout day last year, when he was limited to zero goals and just two assists in the Rangers’ seven-game first-round loss to the Devils, but the star Russian wing sounded like he hopes the perception is different as well.

Mika Zibanejad reacts with teammates after being defeated by the Florida Panthers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Getty Images

Unfortunately, in a championship-starved city with a yearning fan base, the view is only changed by a Stanley Cup.

Despite a much better showing this postseason, Panarin’s ineffectiveness as the Rangers went further and further has earned him another summer narrative of not delivering enough when it mattered most.

He never had the puck in the Panthers series. And as a result, he couldn’t make the impact he did on a game-to-game basis during a career-best 120-point regular season.

But Panarin was hardly alone.

Mika Zibanejad was not only held without a goal in 14 of the Rangers’ 16 playoff games, limited to three in total this postseason, but Jacob Trouba also struggled mightily at times turning the puck over and making ill-advised decisions in defensive coverage.

“I thought the first two series were good,” Zibanejead said of his playoffs. “Obviously, the series against the Panthers, the matchup most of the time was against [Aleksander[] Barkov, who just won the Selke right before that. I knew it was going to be a tough matchup and to try and create offense. The way I’m wired, if I don’t get any offense, then I’m going to make sure that I close it down defensively.

angers left wing Chris Kreider (20) when the New York Rangers held their end of season interviews. Robert Sabo for NY Post

“And I think five-on-five, I don’t think they scored a goal against us, either. So we kind of cancel each other out. Right now, when you don’t win, you can’t see that as a positive, but at the same time, I think at the end of the day, there’s always a next day and as much as we think about and think what we could’ve done differently and whatnot, that’s gone. I can only think about what I can try to do in the future.

“Obviously, the season — points-wise — I don’t think was bad. Obviously, it wasn’t the level of what I had before. But that’s also sports. I don’t try to do anything different, but I’m trying to do the same things, I’m trying to do whatever I can to make that happen. Some years aren’t going to be that way.”

Trouba revealed that he suffered a broken ankle in March, when he missed 11 straight games.

Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) when the New York Rangers held their end of season interviews. Robert Sabo for NY Post

It was a unique injury for the Rangers captain to come back from, considering, he said, a kidney-bean-sized chunk came of his ankle came off.

The lingering effects of the injury certainly played a role in him getting demoted to the bottom defensive pair, but he said it got better as the playoffs progressed.

“There were ups and downs,” Trouba said of how he’d evaluate his game. “I thought at times it was great and at times, obviously, mistakes were made. That happens. I thought as a group, we’re right there. That’s kind of the message that everyone feels.

“It wasn’t by chance, even going back two years ago, three years ago now, we kind of got there. But I think this year we felt like we deserved to be there and we should be there. That’s the feeling going forward.”

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