With the NHL and NHLPA set to meet for a fourth straight day, it appears that the appropriate pressure has finally been applied. A deal will (hopefully) get done, as corporate sponsors –specifically NBC– push both sides to start the season. A full 82 game season is impossible, as all of October and November have been canceled. The rumored season length will be between 60-65 games, with no inter-conference play.
For the Rangers, that means four games against each club in the Northeast and Southeast Divisions, and five or six games against Atlantic Division rivals. When you consider that four teams in the Atlantic made the playoffs (with all four finishing above the 100 point mark), two went to the Conference Finals, and one to the Stanley Cup Finals, that seems a bit unfair for the Rangers. That strength of schedule would make even Notre Dame blush.
Looking a bit deeper into last year’s results, the Rangers went 10-6-2 against the West, and took 22 out of 36 possible points (61%). Those results aren’t bad, but they aren’t among the Eastern Conference leaders either. The Penguins 13-2-3 against the West, and three other teams (Philadelphia, Boston, Buffalo) finished with better records. Losing games against the West hurts the Rangers a bit, but not as much as other playoff contenders.
It was against the East that the Rangers had a tremendous advantage over the competition. Last season, the Blueshirts finished with an astounding 41-18-5 record against teams in the Eastern Conference, taking 87 out of 138 possible points (63%). Naturally, this was the best record against the East, with Pittsburgh a distant second (38-23-3).
Looking at the Rangers records by division, the Blueshirts went 15-7-2 against division rivals (1st in division), but struggled against the Northeast division, going 11-8-1 (tied for 3rd in division). Luckily the Southeast was terrible, and the Rangers went a whopping 15-3-2 (1st in division) against those opponents.
On paper, a schedule composed of games entirely against the Eastern Conference may actually work out in the Rangers favor. It’s a daunting task to play a little less than half of the schedule against teams that finished with 100+ points last season, but the Rangers did very well in those situations last season. With all of the major players returning this season, it’s tough to envision them finishing with a much worse record against conference foes.