It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these musings, so let’s see if I still have what it takes.
The Magic Number
The magic number for the Rangers to clinch the Eastern Conference is now at seven. The way the number is calculated is based on total points the second place team can get. If Pittsburgh wins out, they can get to 112 points. The Rangers currently have 105 points and have the tiebreaker, thus the magic number is seven. If the Penguins lose to the Islanders tonight, the magic number goes to five, as the Penguins will have missed out on two points, making their max points attainable 110.
Even if the Penguins win out, the Rangers would need to go 3-1-1 or better to clinch the Eastern Conference. Clearly, the Rangers control their own destiny.
First Round Matchups
Should the Rangers remain as the top seed, they will likely get one of Ottawa, Buffalo, or Washington in the first round. All three teams are scary, but Buffalo is playing like a team possessed. They are red hot, and really want that playoff spot. Any team coming into the playoffs on a run like this is scary, especially when they have Ryan Miller in net. The Caps are getting Nicklas Backstrom back, so that makes them equally scary. There’s no “easy” matchup in the playoffs this year.
The President’s Trophy is still very much up for grabs, and the Rangers currently have the tiebreaker over the Blues for first in the NHL. This is another scenario where the Rangers control their own destiny. If they win out, then St. Louis can’t catch them. The magic number here is at ten with five games remaining, so there’s no real point in keeping track of it. If St. Louis decides to allow a goal to the opposition, then we will start keeping track.
Vezina Trophy – Still Hank’s to lose?
The Vezina voting this year will be very interesting. Brian Elliott has the best numbers in the NHL by far with a 1.48 GAA, .943 SV%, and 9 shutouts. However, he is in a true tandem with Jaroslav Halak. It’s incredibly rare that the Vezina be awarded to a goalie that will appear in only half the regular season games. But he has three shutouts in a row.
Something also needs to be said about Ken Hitchcock though. Elliott was playing well before he got there, but Hitchcock is famous for his defensively oriented coaching schemes and traps. Will Hitchcock’s history play a role? Will Halak’s great numbers take away some votes?
Is this still Henrik Lundqvist’s trophy to lose?
- Should the Rangers start Lundqvist in every game down the stretch? John Tortorella said he needs to get Hank in a rhythm. If he plays in all five remaining games, he will only get to 63 games started, far less than the 70+ he’s been getting over the past few years. What’s more important, rest or rhythm?
- Who should make up that bottom pairing on defense in the playoffs?
- What would you consider to be a successful playoff run? Conference Finals or bust?
- Who would you rather see in the second round, Pittsburgh or Philadelphia?