Canes running away with Metro, Rangers must focus on second place

The New York Rangers have been off since last Friday enjoying a long break. In the interim, they’ve watched any chance of taking the Metro Division slip away.

On Tuesday night, the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Kings in overtime. By doing so, they extended their points streak to 9 games (8-0-1) and opened up a 12 point lead over the Rangers.

Tonight, the Canes will face the Sabres on the road before they enter the All-Star Break. A win, or OT/SO loss will increase that to either 13 or 14 points. Even with two games in hand and three more contests against Carolina, the Blueshirts need to focus on securing second-place and home-ice advantage in the first round.

Rangers need to beat out Devils for second

Igor Shesterkin New York Rangers
Jan 7, 2023; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) makes a save against the New Jersey Devils during the second period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers sit six points behind the New Jersey Devils for second-place in the Metro with each team even at 49 games. When it comes to potential tie-breakers, the Devils own the first one with 24 regulation wins to 22. They also own the second which includes overtime wins by a 31-25 margin.

That’s why it’s imperative that the Blueshirts win their one remaining game against the Devils at New Jersey on March 30. So far in the three games versus each other, the Rangers have picked up three points (1-1-1) to the Devils’ five (2-0-1).

Looking down the stretch, per the website Tankathon the Rangers have the 6th hardest schedule in the NHL to the Devils 14th. Looking at it from the Metro Division, the Rangers have the second hardest schedule while the Devils have the second easiest.

Of the Blueshirts remaining contests, 13 are versus opponents in the ultra-competitive Metro Division:

  • Hurricanes, 3 (1 at home)
  • Devils, 1 (on the road)
  • Capitals, 3 (1 at home)
  • Penguins, 3 (2 at home)
  • Islanders, 0
  • Flyers, 1 (on the road)
  • Blue Jackets, 2 (1 at home)

In contrast, the Devils only have 10 remaining in the Metro with three against the Flyers and Jackets and just one versus the Hurricanes.

While there’s a lot of hockey left to play, the Rangers would be doing themselves a huge favor by finishing in second-place in the Metro Division for the second consecutive season.

That home-ice advantage in the opening round against the Pittsburgh Penguins proved huge. They were able to win three of their four games on Garden ice, rallying from a 3 games to 1 deficit with Artemi Panarin scoring in OT of Game 7.

For many contenders, the first-round of the playoffs is usually the hardest. As it stands, the Rangers could play either the Devils, Capitals or Penguins to start. Having home-ice would be a huge plus in a rivalry series.

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