The Rangers lost to Montreal last night, which wasn’t all that unexpected considering past success there. With the loss, the Rangers sit in 8th place in the East with a 16-15-3 record. They are tied with the Islanders in points, but hold the tiebreaker at the moment. In essence, with the Islanders the only team tied in points, the Rangers control their own destiny. They have 14 games in 27 days to decide a season.
Their first seven games in April will be against teams in the playoff race (Winnipeg, Pittsburgh twice, Carolina, Toronto twice, Islanders). They then get three games against non-playoff teams (Philly, Florida, Buffalo), before the Devils come to town. That Devils game makes a stretch of three games of four against playoff teams (Devils twice, Carolina, Florida). Summarizing, the Rangers have 14 games left in the season, 10 of which will be against teams in the playoff race. If there was any time to get their act together, now is the time.
At the beginning of the season, we predicted that it would take about 53 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers have 28 points on the table, and if our predictions hold true, they will need 18 of those 28 points. In straight wins-losses, that’s a 9-5 record, which is very doable. That said, the Rangers need to play better and more consistent hockey for 9-5 to be doable.
In between, there is the trade deadline. The organization will look to add some much-needed depth and toughness, but it isn’t a guarantee that the prices will be right for the Rangers to bite. Remember, they won’t make a deal just to make a deal. They will make the right deal, one that helps the team this year and next. Assuming a good deal can come along, the Rangers will hopefully address their needs.
There are only so many times we can argue about why they are in this position. In the end, they are in this position, and that’s that. They hold the 8th spot, and as long as they win, they will make the playoffs. I’ve stood by my belief that they will make the playoffs, and that has not changed. If it’s a date with the Penguins in the first round, so be it.