A topic that keeps getting brought up is the Rangers and their playoff chances. Currently playing a little bit better than expected, the Rangers sit 7th in the Division with 50 points (23-21-4). They also sit 7th in the Wild Card hunt, in which the top two teams make the playoffs, regardless of division. The Rangers have played much better of late, which is where the playoff chatter stems from. But how realistic are their playoff chances?
Last year, the second wild card team (Columbus) had 98 points. The third place wild card team (Montreal) had 96 points and missed the playoffs. Based on current trends, where Carolina has 61 points and is fighting for their playoff lives in the second wild card spot, it looks like 98 points is that barometer again this year.
The Rangers have played 48 games, so they have 34 games remaining to get to that 98 point floor, so they need 48 points in those 34 games. That’s 1.4 points per game to get there, so the Rangers need to win at least 20 games in their final 34, and then their losses need to be of the OT variety. A 20-6-8 gets them to that 98 point threshold. A daunting task. But that doesn’t even include the five teams they need to leapfrog to get there: Montreal, Buffalo, Toronto, Philly, and Carolina, as currently situated. I’ll include Columbus here because they are only a point ahead of Carolina.
It’s not only about the Rangers getting points, it’s about beating the right teams on their climb. The Rangers have six games against those six teams in February (four before the deadline), just three in March, and only one in April. That’s ten total four-point swing games against teams ahead of them in the standings.
February will be the biggest teller in the Blueshirts and their very slim playoff hopes. In addition to the six games against teams ahead of them, they have 13 total games before the deadline, of which they will need to collect at least 20 of a possible 26 points to even have a realistic chance. They also likely need to sweep those four games against wild card teams ahead of them. Again, a daunting task.
Realistically speaking the Rangers have a very small chance of making the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean the season would be a failure. They finished with 78 points last year and jettisoned two of their best players at the deadline. They are on pace to finish with more points with an arguably less skilled roster. This season, even with missed playoffs, should be viewed as a big step forward.