Analysis: A closer look at the New York Rangers playoff chances

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Apr 15, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers celebrates his goal at 12:00 of the first period against the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden on April 15, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers currently sit 4 points behind the Boston Bruins for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division. For the better part of a month, many felt that the Blueshirts only path to the post-season was to overtake Boston. After their recent hot streak since mid-March they stand a chance to catch the Penguins or Islanders as well.

“We’ve got to take care of business and win our own games,” Mika Zibanejad said after his goal beat the Devils yesterday. “I mean we’re in it – we’re just trying to keep winning games and give us our best chance to make the playoffs.”

The Rangers must keep winning, but now have three teams they could catch

Winning obviously goes without say. The Blueshirts have 11 games left and will need to win at least 7 to be in the mix. Should they pick up more than 14 points, they stand a great chance to get in. Per MoneyPuck, their playoff chances are at a lowly 21.3%. Seems bleak, but last week it was a 16% – so just keep winning and watch the odds rise.

Here’s how their remaining schedule shakes out by opponent and number of games.

  • Islanders 3
  • Flyers 2
  • Sabres 2
  • Capitals 2
  • Bruins 2

Let’s consider the Capitals just out of reach with 62 points and only two games against them. Washington is already considered a shoe-in with a 98.4% chance of making it per MoneyPuck. That’s the highest in the division.

Here’s the breakdown of the remaining teams, along with their games, opponents, and odds.

  • Bruins 13 games remaining (BUF 5x, PIT 2x, NJ 2x, NYR 2x, NYI 1x, WSH 1x) – 90%
  • Penguins 11 games remaining (NJ 3x, BOS 2x, WSH 2x, PHI 2x, BUF 2x,) – 97%
  • Islanders 11 games remaining (NYR 3x, WSH 3x, BUF 2x, NJ 2x, BOS 1x) – 92.9%

Chasing the Bruins, Penguins, and Islanders

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A look at the three teams the Rangers can catch and possibly surpass shows a surprising revelation. The Bruins do not represent the best path for the playoffs. I would argue that rooting for Boston to win their games against the Penguins and Islanders is in the Blueshirts best interest. Expecting the Bruins with two games in hand to lose many of their 7 games against the Sabres and Devils is a fool’s errand.

For the Rangers to make the post-season they need to win all three games against the Islanders to close the gap to two points. The Isles have the toughest schedule of the three teams discussed with four games against the Capitals and Bruins. This is the best path forward.

Should that fail, there is an outside chance the Blueshirts can overtake the 7 point gap with the Penguins. However, that requires the Flyers, Devils and Sabres to pick up 3 or 4 wins in the 7 games Pittsburgh has against them.

Bottom line to fans scoreboard watching – it’s time to root for the Bruins. That’s because it’s the Islanders that are the team the Rangers can catch. The two teams face-off tonight with the playoffs really on the line.


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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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