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This might have represented the best of all worlds in the three-dimensional universe in which the Rangers live.

For: 1) Being summarily swept out of the qualifying round, 1-2-3, lickety-split by the Candy Canes of Carolina does not erase the significant strides the 2019-20 Rangers took in transforming from lottery-fodder to playoff relevance.

But: 2) The ouster that Tuesday’s competitive 4-1 defeat, in which Igor Shesterkin returned to nets after missing the opening two matches with an unspecified injury, served a welcome purpose in reminding everyone that the team has miles to go before it can be considered a Stanley Cup contender.

And: 3) The defeat gives the organization a 12.5 percent chance of becoming the luckiest loser in NHL history by coming away with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft when the second round of the lottery is conducted Aug. 10, and by the way, maybe the talented winger out of Rimouski would not be the slam-dunk selection with that big center from Sudbury there for the taking.

The Rangers weren’t even a pale resemblance of the team that went 18-10-1 after Shesterkin’s Jan. 6 promotion, and it is likely the Russian’s absence from the mix had more than a little something to do with that in the opening pair.

Because though Henrik Lundqvist was capable enough in Game 1 while extending his postseason consecutive starts streak to 128 (and to 129 in Game 2’s less effective outing before backing up a playoff game for the first time since April 26, 2006), the Rangers had become Shesterkin’s team in the months preceding the pause.

The plan throughout camp was to play Shesterkin against Carolina. The night before Game 1, the Blueshirts learned they would have to go with their backup.

Igor ShesterkinNHLI via Getty Images

Teams have overcome that type of adversity before. The Penguins in 2016, for instance, obliterated the Rangers in a five-game first-round series despite having to go with third-string neophyte Jeff Zatkoff in the first two matches while both Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury were injured.

But the Rangers were not strong enough either psychologically or structurally to cope with that challenge. They were then not strong enough to compensate with Jesper Fast was blasted out of the tournament on the series’ very fist shift on a hellacious neutral-zone hit from Brady Skjei. A lack of depth was exposed (or reinforced), and so was a lack of emotional maturity.

These three games and this stark disappointment do not cast a shadow on the 70-game regular season that ended almost five months ago. These things can happen to first-time postseason groups.

It happened to the 2006 Rangers. It to the 1967 Rangers. But again, it did not happen that way to the 2019 Hurricanes, who took out the defending Cup champ Capitals in a seven-game first-round series after having been out of the playoffs for nine straight years.

Which is to say that it was not inevitable. At least until 61 seconds of the series had been played.

The Rangers had a glass jaw in Games 1 and 2. They did get up after taking a couple of roundhouse blows, and were wobbly on their feet until knocked down and out. They looked a bit like Floyd Patterson against Sonny Liston. This was surprising and disappointing.

But Game 3 was toe-to-toe for at least the first 40 minutes. The Rangers were much better on that front. They attacked the net and tested goaltender James Reimer. Everyone. Saw. Chris. The bubble may have burst, but at least the team put up a fight.

And now it will be interesting to see how the hierarchy in the front office reacts to these three games in forming a plan for this offseason. It will be interesting to see how they put this into context.

Larger picture, the front office led by president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton will add some muscle and grit to the organization. Teams can live the high life off flash-and-dash during the regular season, but teams thrive on larger helpings of meat and potatoes in the postseason.

The Rangers do not have enough fiber. Not enough sandpaper. This confirmed it.

That, plus a looming top-six opening in the middle over the next couple of years, is why the Rangers might at least consider Sudbury’s Quinton Byfield rather than Rimouski’s Alexis Lafreniere if they win the lottery.

The Rangers had a successful season. They did. They made measurable progress. Even in the rumble of this tournament they leave 2019-20 feeling mighty good about Kaapo Kakko, which almost made the entire endeavour worthwhile.

Make no mistake: The Blueshirts are still rebuilding. There is still much work to do. This series provided a cold, hard reminder. Maybe everyone even needed that.

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New guidelines address rise in opioid use during pregnancy

Opioid use in pregnancy has prompted new guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, aimed at improving care for women and newborns affected by their mothers’ drug use.

The number of affected women and infants has increased in recent years but they often don’t get effective treatment, and the pandemic may be worsening that problem, said Dr. Stephen Patrick, lead author of the academy report released Monday.

“While we have been talking about the opioid crisis for years, pregnant women and their newborns seldom make it to the top of the heap. Infants are receiving variable care and not getting connected to services,” said Patrick, a Vanderbilt University pediatrician.

The academy’s report says pregnant women should have access to opioid medication to treat opioid misuse. Two opioids, buprenorphine and methadone, are effective treatments but pregnant women often face stigma in using them and doctors who prescribe them are scarce.

The academy says hospitals should written protocols for assessing and treating opioid-affected newborns. Many don’t and practices vary widely.

Breastfeeding and other practices that promote bonding should be encouraged, and parent education and referral to services for affected newborns should be provided, the academy says. Its recommendations echo guidance from other medical groups and the U.S. government.

“This is a substantial public health problem that is still lacking solutions,” Patrick said.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7% of U.S. women reported in 2019 that they had used prescription opioids during pregnancy. One in 5 of those women reported misusing the drugs while pregnant.

Some infants born to these women develop symptoms of opioid withdrawal, including tremors, fussiness and diarrhea.

By some U.S. estimates, nearly 80 affected infants are diagnosed every day on and the numbers have tripled in recent years.

Patrick has done research suggesting that these infants may be at risk for developmental delays, but says it’s possible those findings reflect use of alcohol or other drugs during pregnancy, poor prenatal care or stress.

“Getting into treatment may be getting even harder” because of the pandemic, he said. “There’s so much going on in the world that that issues involving opioid use are flying under the radar.”


Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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