Donovan Burns The Hockey Writers
Rangers Rundown: Exploring Playoff Scenarios
With the playoffs just a month away, the New York Rangers have firmly planted themselves in the ever-evolving contender discussion. That being said, the playoff scenarios for the Blueshirts are endless. The Metropolitan Division is shaping up as one of the best divisions in recent NHL history. Could the Rangers end up as a wild card team with over 100 points? Can the Rangers clinch home ice in the first round? Let’s cover all the potential playoff possibilities.
Metropolitan Division Spot #2
The division spots behind the Washington Capitals are wide open for the taking. Do the Rangers want to go through the Metropolitan Division on their way to the Stanley Cup? Rangers fans would likely take a hard pass on that. With the strength of the Metro teams and the Rangers’ inability to win home games, grinding for the second division spot may not be a smart idea.
In this certain situation, the Rangers must win home games to win any series against either the Columbus Blue Jackets or Pittsburgh Penguins. That has been easier said than done this year, with the Rangers being mediocre at home. That’s where the hot goalie hand comes in. If Henrik Lundqvist can get hot and play out of his mind, they will be extremely competitive. If the defense doesn’t allow Lundqvist to succeed, beating the Penguins or Jackets will be tough.
Metropolitan Division Spot #3
The final Metropolitan spot is a definite possibility, but against who? If the Rangers did somehow slide into a division spot, there is no ideal match-up in this situation. Both Columbus and Pittsburgh are extremely strong home teams. The Rangers would need to go into the opposing arena and likely win at least two on the road. That’s unlikely, but anything is possible in the NHL.
The Rangers will end the season as an elite road team with a less than great home record. This is something that must be addressed by the end of the season. This team has been constantly neglecting home-ice advantage this year, constantly coming out flat off of puck drop. That being said, the Blueshirts still have two home games against the Penguins left in the season. If they can go out and win one, if not both, that would be a huge confidence boost come playoff time.
Wild Card Spot #1
The third and final possibility is likely the easiest way to get to the Eastern Conference final. If the Rangers end up in the wild card, they’ll face the Atlantic Division winner. That will be either the Montreal Canadiens or Ottawa Senators, barring a collapse. In this situation, the Rangers will be on the road against any opponent. As stated previously, that may not be all bad for this year’s team.
One extremely important stat is how both the Canadiens and Senators score. Neither the Canadiens or the Senators score at a high pace, generally relying on defense and goaltending to win them games. Teams that play a defensive style of hockey generally don’t fare well against the Rangers. When the Rangers get to use their speed and use set plays, they are generally successful. If the Rangers get healthy by the time the playoffs roll around, both the Canadiens and the Senators are beatable teams.
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