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.
That is no longer the case.
Rangers have closed the gap on several teams since March 13th
Coinciding with Artemi Panarin’s return to the lineup after a leave of absence on March 13th, the Blueshirts have been on an absolute tear. The Rangers have compiled a record of 13-4-3 for 29 points which is good for second in the entire league over that span.
In the process they have closed the gap over the teams ahead of them as follows:
- Washington Capitals (picked up 3 points)
- New York Islanders (picked up 8 points)
- Pittsburgh Penguins (picked up 3 points)
- Boston Bruins (picked up 5 points)
Despite the Rangers being one of the best teams in the league since Mid-March, they’re still out of a playoff spot which speaks to how good this division. Reality is that whomever finishes 5th is going to be one of the best teams not in the playoffs.
The Rangers must keep winning, but now have three teams they could catch
“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.”
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. 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. Here’s the breakdown of the remaining teams, along with their games and opponents.
- Bruins 13 games remaining (BUF 5x, PIT 2x, NJ 2x, NYR 2x, NYI 1x, WSH 1x)
- Penguins 11 games remaining (NJ 3x, BOS 2x, WSH 2x, PHI 2x, BUF 2x,)
- Islanders 11 games remaining (NYR 3x, WSH 3x, BUF 2x, NJ 2x, BOS 1x)
Forget the Bruins, the Rangers have to catch the Islanders
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 tomorrow night with the playoffs really on the line.
Here’s the latest NHL rumors out today. Read them all here.