Madison Square Garden: A Cathedral Turned Fortress
After a shaky start to the 2014-15 season, where the New York Rangers went into December with an 11-8-4 record that had many fans ready to jump ship and abandon the team, the Rangers have now become a very formidable opponent in the NHL, as expected.
With a current record of 33-16-5, good for third in the Metropolitan division, the Rangers have been finding ways to win wild games, and have also had some contests where they have outplayed their opposition completely in all facets of the game.
One of the many great stats the Blueshirts hold this season is their record on home ice. Some people will say that playing at home really isn’t a huge factor, but it most certainly is. You have 18,000 people packed into one of the most hallowed of NHL’s cathedrals, many of who are fans of your team, cheering them on and giving them life to push forward and power through the enemy.
Now, last season was a different story. The Rangers had a 20-17-4 record on the Madison Square Garden ice, barely over the .500 mark. In the playoffs, New York didn’t care what ice they were on, they laid out their best game and chugged all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. That included a game seven win in Pittsburgh and victories in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final in one of the most intimidating arenas in the league, the Bell Centre in Montreal.
They also could have won the first two games of the Final in Los Angeles, but that’s a different story.
In this campaign however, the Rangers have really made Madison Square Garden a fortress and frightening place to play in once again. So far, they hold a 17-7-4 mark at The Garden, only three wins shy of their TOTAL from last year.
Some of those home wins include a 5-0 thrashing of the Montreal Canadiens, one of the best teams in the conference this year, another 5-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins and a 4-0 win over the San Jose Sharks.
Now in February, the Rangers are in a divisional battle for just positioning as they have a 99.9% chance of making the playoffs according to sportsclubstats.com and an 11.5% chance of winning the Stanley Cup, which ranks fourth out of all teams. They are only behind the Chicago Blackhawks (11.9%), St. Louis Blues (12.8%), and Nashville Predators (15%) in Cup chances.
Now, if you were to tell the Rangers that home ice matters, they would point you toward last season, but playing at home in a game seven is way better than playing on the road in a series decider. With just about two months left in the regular season, fans are already talking about playoffs and that makes Manhattan that much more exciting than just another tourist destination. At the end of the day, all that matters is which captain of a great team is hoisting the silver chalice come June.
Will it be the Rangers? With a wide open field of 16 competitive hockey teams, nobody knows. Hockey is the most unpredictable sport in the world, which is exactly why we love it.