New York Rangers face a gauntlet of tough opponents in March

Martin St. Louis #26 and Keith Yandle #93 of the New York Rangers celebrate after a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators at Madison Square Garden on March 2, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

Martin St. Louis #26 and Keith Yandle #93 of the New York Rangers celebrate after a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators at Madison Square Garden on March 2, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The final weeks of the season are going to be tough on the New York Rangers. I wanted to take a look at the schedule the Rangers have to play the next 3 weeks. As well as what they’ve done in recent months.

Beginning with Chicago and moving through the gauntlet the Rangers must navigate through to get to the playoffs. The month of March will present the Rangers with some of their toughest games of the season.

In the last week, the competition has gotten harder as the games get closer to playoff hockey. The Rangers played against three of the NHL’s best teams already this month, managing 4 of 6 points in the two contests. Monday they defeated Nashville handedly 4-1 but lost 2-1 to Detroit in OT. Last night, they defeated the Blackhawks 1-0 in OT. It was the first shutout of Chicago since 1969.

The Islanders have managed to keep control of first place in the division.

The Islanders have been able to get points despite a tough schedule. The Rangers have games in hand but they’re games they need to win if they want to have a shot at the division.

NY Rangers

Kevin Hayes and the NY Rangers defeated the Hawks in Chicago(NYR)

A look at the NY Rangers next opponent, the NY Islanders.

The Islanders play a similar game as the Rangers have under Alain Vigneault. Both teams try to control the puck for more of the game than the other. Since Alain Vigneault has been coach, the Rangers have used a 1-2-2 forecheck with a 1-1-3 lock with late leads. They use their forecheck aggressively in certain situations and passively in others. How the Rangers forecheck is used depends on who is on the ice, score, and time left in period.

The Islanders play a similar possession based game as the NY Rangers.

The Islanders use a strategy that should look very familiar to Ranger fans. They use the same 1-2-2 forecheck that the Rangers do. They’ll use a 1-1-3 left-wing lock late in periods and in the third with a lead. Where these two teams are different is how Jack Capuano uses his team in the defensive end.

The Islanders play a zone defensive coverage to protect home plate in front of their netminder Jaroslav Halak. They’ll mix in some man coverage when the puck goes to one of the high options at the blueline. In my opinion, that’s when they’re most vulnerable and can be beaten. If the Rangers can move the puck around well in the offensive zone, eventually you’ll catch a blown coverage. It’s a matter of capitalizing on those mistakes.

The NY Rangers have to play the Capitals twice the next 3 weeks.

 

NY Rangers

Staal and Girardi will look to keep Tavares and the Islanders off balance Tues. (Getty)

For the rest of the month of March, the Rangers play Chicago(1), Washington(2), NY Islanders, Winnipeg, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Ottawa, Buffalo, and Florida. That’s a string of games coming up that the Rangers need to win to stay in good shape. They’ve all but sealed a playoff spot but after all the winning, they could still fall out of the top 3 in the Metropolitan division.

They had a tough time scoring in Detroit and Chicago, only managing one goal twice. Hopefully, Rick Nash gets back to scoring and Cam Talbot continues his great performances the last 3 games. March will be crutial for the NY Rangers and it begins with the next two road games. We will get to measure the NY Rangers against some good teams the next few weeks.

Like 13/14 the NY Rangers team began to come together in December after a slow start.

In December, the NY Rangers lost the first two games of the month before they rifled off wins in 9 of the next 10, including a streak of 8 wins in a row. Then January began with a road trip through California in which the Rangers swept all 3 road games in 4 nights. The Rangers have won 5 of the last 6 possible points to start the month of March. A pretty good start to the road trip but there’s 4 very big points on the line Tuesday and Wednesday. If the Rangers don’t get any points against the Islanders and the Capitals, they could be back in the wild card spots

NY Rangers

The NY Rangers will have their shot at Ovie and the Caps (Washington Post)

In 14 games during February the NY Rangers competition had an average of 67 points. In March the competition currently has 75 points on average. Also 10 of the 15 games are against teams currently in the playoffs. Another 3 of the teams the Rangers will play this month are right on the cusp, still playing for a playoff spot.