The Rangers are headed to Florida for two games against the Panthers and Lightning. This comes after a week long hiatus following an atrocious stretch of hockey for the Blueshirts. At this point, I think the “they can sneak into the playoffs” crowd has quieted into more realistic expectations. Let’s go through my brain, however risky that may be.
1. Yes, the playoffs crowd has certainly quieted. It was never a realistic scenario in the first place. The Rangers do not score at all (80 goals in 28 games is no bueno, and that includes the “winning shootout goal”). There’s only so much you can do with 2.85 goals per game. That said, it is usually enough for Henrik Lundqvist.
2. The problem is that aside from the 9-1-1 stretch, the Rangers have had trouble with protecting against quality chances. It’s weird to say, because they were doing so well to start the season. Then lately it’s like the high danger area is made of lava. Considering how David Quinn’s defensive zone system is predicated on simpler defensive play and limiting Royal Road passes and chances from the slot, the recent play is frustrating.
3. I don’t think a potential playoff campaign would have changed how the Rangers were going to look at their season. Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello are likely trade bait. The Rangers will probably look to unload Brendan Smith and/or Marc Staal as well. Perhaps even Kevin Shattenkirk will be headed out of town. February will be an interesting month for the Blueshirts.
4. Now if the Rangers played every game at MSG, they might make the playoffs. Considering how badly they played at home last season, I’ll take the home wins as a positive. It doesn’t help their draft position, but watching them win at MSG is a step in the right direction.
5. Speaking of their draft position, the Rangers currently sit around the 11th pick. By my count, there are three teams (Carolina, Philly, NJD) that should jump over them in the standings, moving them to 8th. There’s an outside chance the Panthers and Coyotes jump over them too, moving them to 6th. That’s way too far down the road to predict, but something to keep an eye on.
6. I wonder if Lindy Ruff is still running the defense?
7. Henrik Lundqvist. Still elite.