New York Rangers could know 1st-round playoff opponent tonight

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Having taken care of their own business by finishing the regular season with the most points in the NHL and franchise history, the New York Rangers will rest the next two days and wait to see whom they will play in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Blueshirts could know as soon as Tuesday night which team will secure the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference and be their opponent. The Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings have the best chances to clinch that final spot, though the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers remain in the mix with one game to play for each team.

The Capitals, Red Wings and Flyers all play Tuesday. In fact, the Flyers host the Capitals in a crucial clash. The Penguins close out their regular-season schedule Wednesday, when they visit the New York Islanders.

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Capitals or Red Wings could clinch playoff berth Tuesday, face Rangers in 1st round of Stanley Cup Playoffs

NHL: New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals and Red Wings each have 89 points. Since the Capitals own the tiebreaker against the Red Wings, all they need to do is win in any fashion against the Flyers on Tuesday to punch their playoff ticket and face the Rangers in Round 1.

However, the Red Wings would clinch that final playoff berth in the East if they defeat the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Tuesday and the Capitals lose in any fashion (regulation, overtime or shootout) to the Flyers. Should Washington and Detroit each pick up one point Tuesday, the Red Wings would be eliminated but the Capitals would have to wait for the Penguins result against the Islanders on Wednesday to see if they’re in the postseason or not.

Here are each of the NHL clinching scenarios for Tuesday.

The Capitals have won two straight and three of four since a six-game winless skid (0-4-2) nearly derailed their postseason hopes. Goalie Charlie Lindgren made 16 saves in a crucial 2-0 shutout win against the Boston Bruins on Monday. They are 1-0-1 against the Flyers this season.

Philadelphia has also won two in a row, though it needs plenty of help to earn that final playoff berth. The Flyers currently have 87 points and are behind the Capitals, Red Wings and Penguins.

The Red Wings rallied for a thrilling 5-4 overtime win against the Canadiens on Monday and play the second half of their home-and-home set on the road Tuesday. The Red Wings are 2-0-1 against the Canadiens this season and have won two straight and three of their past four.

As for the Rangers, they are one of four teams to have concluded their 2023-24 regular-season schedule. They did so on a high note, shutting out the Ottawa Senators 4-0 on Monday night at Madison Square Garden to secure the fourth Presidents’ Trophy and eighth division title in franchise history.

The Rangers established franchise-highs in wins (55) and points (114) and are off the next two days before returning to practice Thursday.

This season, the Rangers were 2-2-0 against the Capitals and swept their three-game series with the Red Wings. They also won three of four against the Flyers and two of three against the Penguins.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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