The Tough Road AheadDecember 2, 2011, by
The Rangers won seven in a row, then lost two, and have now spun off four wins in a row. For those keeping track, that’s 11-2, but the Rangers only played three playoff teams in that stretch, winning them all. The next eight games are very telling for the Rangers:
- @ Tampa Bay
- vs. Toronto
- vs. Tampa Bay
- @ Buffalo
- vs. Florida
- vs. Dallas
- @ St. Louis
- @ Phoenix
These eight games (seven opponents) are all against teams that are either in the playoffs, or who made the playoffs last season and within two points of a playoff spot (Tampa). This is the toughest stretch of eight games the Rangers may see all season. The only team I can see falling out of the playoff race come March is Toronto.
The next eight games will be a gut check for the Rangers, a true test to see if they belong. They have been crushing the teams they need to beat, and they have been beating divisional teams when they have significant injuries. Now is where they line up against teams like St. Louis who have won four in a row, Toronto who has been off to a hot start, and Dallas who is winning despite a negative goal differential.
Good teams find ways to win. Great teams find ways to win against good competition. If the Rangers are to truly be a great team, they need a minimum of ten points out of a possible 16 in these games. It’s doable, as each team has their flaws. But as fun as November was to watch, December could be even more fun, or a long and painful fall back to Earth.