These new Rangers are starting to look like the Rangers of old, and it is beginning to show in the standings. Currently, the Rangers have a record of 19-15-4, good for second place in the Atlantic Division and seventh place in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders (19-16-4) are tied with the Rangers in points, but the Rangers have a game in hand and own the tiebreaker, so they sit in eight place in the East.
Yesterday’s win over Carolina boosted the Rangers chances of making the playoffs by 11.6%, up to an 86.9% probability of making the playoffs (all percentages courtesy of Sports Club Stats). All of a sudden, the talk isn’t about whether this club will make the playoffs –something we said they will do from the start of the season– but about what seed they will get and who they will face in the first round. It’s amazing what a 3-0-1 record in March, including three points against the Penguins, can do for the confidence of the fans.
The Rangers have ten games remaining on their schedule. All ten of those games are against teams either barely above them (Toronto twice) or below them (Islanders, Philly, Florida twice, Buffalo, Devils twice, Carolina) in the standings. That bodes well for a team that will hopefully continue this hot streak right into the playoffs.
As Kevin noted in the beginning of the season, 53 points appeared to be the cutoff for the playoffs, and the percentages at Sports Club Stats appear to be consistent with our predictions. The Rangers are virtually guaranteed a playoff spot (92.6% chance) if they finish at 53 points, which is at worst a 3-2-5 record in their remaining games. Considering their schedule, this should be an easy mark to reach.
Based on their current record, the Rangers have an 8% chance at the 5th seed, a 22% chance at the 6th seed, a 38% chance at the 7th seed, and a 19% chance at the 8th seed. Naturally these percentages will change with the Rangers’ performance in their next ten games. They will also change depending on how other teams perform. For example, if the Rangers go 10-0-0 and the Penguins go 0-9-0 to finish the season, then the Rangers win the division. That scenario isn’t depicted in Sports Clubs Stats’ percentages –because it is extremely unlikely that it happens– but it is a scenario nonetheless.
It is more than likely that the Rangers can at least finish this stretch with a 6-3-1 record, which puts them at 55 points. At that point, the Rangers would likely be the 7th seed (60%) or the 6th seed (30%). The 7th seed is a date with Montreal (cringe), and the 6th seed is a date with the Southeast winner, likely Washington or Winnipeg.
If the Rangers can avoid a date with Montreal for as long as possible, it would be great. The same goes for Ottawa, as the Rangers just can’t beat those two teams (0-5-1 this season). They have the schedule to make some noise and potentially get to the 6th seed, but that appears to be a bit of a long shot. That said, at least they have put themselves in a position to control their own destiny for postseason play.