I am one of those who has never really doubted that the Rangers will make the playoffs. It’s been a bumpy ride for sure, but this club is in the middle of a great run in March, that is propelling them to a playoff spot. They are 7-2-1 in the month of March, and while some will have short memories and remember the 6-1 and 8-4 wins over the Panthers and Sabres, let’s remember that the Rangers played some tough teams in this stretch too.
They beat the top seed in the East (Pittsburgh) 6-1, and completely dominated them in another 2-1 shootout loss. They beat the playoff bound Leafs one out of two. They shutout the Islanders. They beat the Jets 4-2. That’s five games against teams in the playoffs, and another game against a team that can still make the playoffs. Not exactly an easy schedule until the past two games.
The Rangers scored two goals or less in three of those games. That’s fairly normal for any NHL team. It gets exaggerated because of the scoring woes of this team, but let’s remember that despite those three games of two goals or less, the Rangers scored six goals or more in another three games. The other four games: Three goals twice, four goals twice. The average over ten games: 3.8 goals per game.
Yes, we can acknowledge the fact that the games against Buffalo and Florida are skewing the average, but what better time to play bad teams than now? The Rangers need goal scoring confidence and they need wins. They are getting both of them right now, and the remainder of their schedule is against teams that will not make the playoffs. The only formidable opponent is the Devils, who just got Ilya Kovalchuk back.
If the Rangers can get Marc Staal and/or Brian Boyle back for their playoff run, they become even more dangerous. Despite what you think about Boyle, he’s more useful on the fourth line than Chris Kreider. Staal, well Staal coming back takes Steve Eminger out of the lineup, so it’s a major upgrade. Those are major IF’s at this point, but it’s still something to keep in the back of your mind.
A hot Rangers team coming into the playoffs is a dangerous Rangers team. They have the best goalie in the world. If they continue to score, they have three balanced lines that pose matchup problems. They still have one of the best young defenses in the league. Don’t be fooled, no one wants to face this club in the first round.