The weird thing about these two winning streaks and winning 13 of 14 games: The Rangers haven’t really moved up in the standings. Some blame the three games in hand they hold on the Islanders and Washington (two on the Penguins), but the reality is that the cream of the Metro has kept winning as well.
The Caps are 7-1-2 in their last 10 and 10-1-4 (that “1” coming against the Rangers) in their last fifteen. The Isles are 6-3-1 in their last ten. The Pens have cooled a bit at 4-4-2 in their last ten, but were 6-1-1 prior. So despite winning all these games, the Rangers haven’t gained much ground on those Metro foes ahead of them.
But now comes the fun part of the season. The Rangers, fresh off their California sweep, have the Islanders at home tonight. A win puts them three points back of first with three games in hand. They then play the finally-getting-their-act-together Bruins and the finally healthy Blue Jackets before another Metro showdown with the Penguins. Three of those four games (CBJ) have playoff implications and are four-point swing games. They then face the Isles after Ottawa comes to town. That’s four games in six that have conference playoff implications.
Expecting the Rangers to continue to roll like this is completely unrealistic, especially because they are riding an absurdly high SH% at even strength. But hey, we can be optimistic right? As long as they use that speed to pressure the forecheck and close passing lanes in the neutral zone, they are the most dangerous team in the NHL.
All three California coaches said they had trouble handling the Rangers speed. The Isles can keep pace, that we know. So can the Penguins. These aren’t easy games, but they are games the Rangers need to win to keep pace in the Metro.