In case you missed it the last two weeks, I decided I’m piggybacking off Elliotte Friedman and our own Brandon Cohen. This is a weekly thought post on Wednesdays going forward. I’d usually do these ad-hoc, but I like the idea of a mid-week thoughts post. This week, let’s talk about the NY Rangers playoff chances.
1. As Brandon said this morning, the Rangers aren’t going to make the playoffs. On March 19, I wrote the Rangers needed to go about 21-7 to hit 74 points. That would put them just ahead of Boston’s pace of 72 points. Since then, they’ve gone 4-3, which means they’d need to go 17-4 over their last 24 games. That’ a big hit to the Rangers playoff chances.
Boston is a little under their pace from March 19, but they have a bunch of games against Buffalo remaining. That will improve their pace back to where it should be.
Do you see the Rangers going 17-4, with only a handful of those games being against Buffalo and New Jersey? I don’t think so. Even with the last two games of the year against the Bruins, the Rangers will likely be out of it before then.
2. The Rangers playoff chances took the biggest hit over the weekend, when they lost two in a row in regulation to the Flyers and the Caps. They needed at least two points from that weekend to stay in the race. There is a big difference between 17-4 and 16-5, even if it doesn’t seem like much.
The biggest concern was how the Rangers basically no-showed for two periods against the Caps. The Flyers game was somewhat expected, since the Rangers can’t always win 17-3. But to do it again against the Caps was a major letdown.
They even came out flat yesterday in the first ten minutes. Luckily they corrected it.
3. Missing the playoffs this year is perfectly fine and, quite frankly, expected. I know a lot of people thought the Rangers could make the playoffs, but it was a bit of rose-colored glasses. They were the same team as the prior year, the needed a near perfect February run to even get into the playoff picture. This was a team that needed all of its stars to repeat their career years. That wasn’t realistic.
Given the division, the lack of a training camp, COVID impacts, unnecessary drama, shooting issues, and other things, the fact this team is above hockey .500 is pretty good actually. They have figured it out defensively, which is a big step in the right direction. This team is too talented to not put it together offensively, so defense was the important factor.
4. I might sound like a broken record, but it was never about competing this year. There was too much dead cap space, too many question marks, and too many holes on the roster. That’s fine. This is a developmental year, especially with no training camp. Getting a year of experience under Lafreniere’s and Miller’s belts matters. Righting the Kaapo Kakko ship matters. Ryan Lindgren showing he can do it away from Adam Fox matters. Filip Chytil, before COVID and his injury, took another big step forward.
All of this development matters. It sets the table for the Rangers to go from rebuilding to competing. This goes into identifying which area need to be addressed via free agency and/or trade, and which kids are stepping into other areas. Lindgren is a great example here, as entering the season 1LD was a question mark. Now? Not so much.
5. Development should be the primary focus for the rest of the season too. Vitali Kravtsov is set to get into the lineup at some point soon. Morgan Barron may get a recall. Tarmo Reunanen might get a longer look after the trade deadline. Even in the remote possibility that none of them are going to be long term future pieces, developing them at least increases trade value.
But on Kravtsov and Barron, the Rangers do view them –at least for now– as pieces of the future. Kravtsov solidifies that top-nine wing depth, and the pure talent the he and whomever the 3LW will be helps boost a mediocre center into a viable 3C option.
Barron could be that major upgrade on Brett Howden that the Rangers desperately need. That is, assuming they keep him at center. This is the key piece of the Barron development. He’s been a winger in Hartford, until injuries forced him back into the pivot role. He’s looked good there too. Perhaps the Rangers were wrong when they initially pegged him as a winger in the NHL?
6. Speaking of roster holes – there aren’t many that can’t be filled internally. Depth players are usually bargain bin signings, and we could see one as a stopgap next year on 3LD. But the Kevin Rooney’s and Colin Blackwell’s of the world are relatively easy to find. There are always a ton of them available, which is why you don’t spend big money on your fourth line.
Nils Lundkvist, assuming he’s with the Rangers next season, slots into the 3RD role. Kravtsov and Barron might be with the club next season too.
There’s a legitimate argument that the Rangers need another viable middle-six center, which is something they can’t address internally. Of course, this needs to be at the right cost.
7. Adam Fox is elite, and deserves a Norris.
As an aside: What do you all think of this weekly column? Great? Horrible? Meh?