After the break, the New York Rangers looked pretty sluggish in their first game back. However, that is not unexpected since their last game was on February 1. After the thrilling nine-round shootout game against the Boston Bruins the other day, the Rangers have 34 games left in the season. Out of those, 19 are at home.
New York needs to take advantage. If they could win just those home games, that comes out to 38 points. Add that to their current total of 66 points, and you get 104. Not a bad number to aim for if you’re shooting for the postseason. Would they be able to do it? If you look at their past games to predict the future, the answer is absolutely. Their future is in their own hands. There’s no magic number to meet to get into the playoffs; you just have to have more points than other teams in your division. Sounds simple, but it rarely is.
Currently, the Rangers are sitting in the third spot in the Metropolitan and sixth overall in the league. If they continue on their chosen path, New York will finish in one of the top three spots in the Metropolitan Division. Worst case scenario, they would end up in a wildcard spot unless they go with the third option, which is nuking their season and kissing the playoffs goodbye.
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No Quit in New York
Those who are not Ranger fans may wonder how they are doing so well this season, especially after the previous lackluster seasons. The answer? Resilience. The ‘never give up’ way of thinking; it is finding a way when there appears to be no way. New York seems to have made a habit of it this season.
Have they deserved all of their wins this season? Unfortunately, no. Their performances in some games have been lacking, and some say the Rangers rely on their goaltender, Igor Shesterkin, too much. But, of course, it does not hurt to have one of the best goalies currently in the NHL on your team. Keep in mind that he’s played 30 games this season. His record as of the Boston game is 23-5-2, with a save percentage of .938 and a 2.05 goals against average.
It’s easy to say the goalie is carrying the team if your offensive and defensive performances are lackluster, especially 5v5. However, Shesterkin and special teams, along with clutch performances by other players, have carried the Rangers to where they are now. However, there has been a noticeable improvement throughout the season, and more players are contributing or making plays when needed.
If the Rangers make the postseason, they will not be able to rely on special teams alone. Players like Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, and Ryan Strome have been able to put the puck in the net. Other players like Barclay Goodrow and Kevin Rooney are finally finding their game and stepping up as well. It is really just fighting until the very end, and if it takes the goaltender to put the team on his back, so be it.
The overall consensus is that the Rangers will make the playoffs. However, they need to work on a few things to get past the first round. First, new York needs contributions from everyone on the team. Players like Kreider, Panarin, and Zibanejad cannot do everything themselves. Second, the Rangers need to improve their even-strength game. Not just in contributions more their bottom-six players. This also means getting more shots on goal because right now, the Rangers are 29th in the league with an average of 28.6 shots on goal per game.
The Rangers are fifth on the power play and ninth on the penalty kill. There’s no doubt that special teams have helped the Rangers this season. However, in the postseason, there are fewer chances for penalties. This means that the team that can control the puck effectively at even strength has the advantage.
The stats don’t bode well for the Rangers if they want to make it past the first round. But, even if they do, they will likely face a team with more playoff experience, built precisely for that moment. So, the Rangers are not there yet, but as fans watched the franchise go through and survive a rebuild, it has given them hope. So, while the Rangers may not be there yet, the missing pieces are almost within reach.
Next up for the Rangers is a game tonight at Madison Square Garden, where they will be taking on the Detroit Redwings at 7 p.m. EST.
Follow Liz Pendergraft on Twitter @lizzibear824
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