Don’t look now, but the Rangers are 7-1-2 in their last ten games and starting to make some noise in the Eastern Division. Catching the Bruins has always been the goal, but the Bruins are 6-3-1 in that same span, so the Rangers haven’t made up much ground. But with the focus on the Bruins, something else has happened. The Islanders, 5-5-0 in their last ten, have come within striking distance. What if we were looking at catching the wrong team? What if the Rangers can catch the Islanders instead?
It seemed unfathomable at first. It seems unrealistic now, but yet, it can be done. The Rangers are eight points back of the Islanders now. But the teams face each other three more times before the season ends. If the Rangers take all three of those games, it’s just a two point difference. That’s a big if, of course, as the Islanders are a strong defensive team that is very well coached. However stranger things have happened.
Islanders Schedule Isn’t Easy
The Islanders, like the Rangers, have 12 games remaining. The breakdown isn’t overly friendly:
- 3 vs. the Rangers
- 3 vs. Washington
- 2 vs. Buffalo
- 2 vs. New Jersey
- 1 vs. Boston
Yes that is still four games against Buffalo and the Devils, but it is also four games against playoff teams. Given the Islanders are slumping a bit, they may be a good team for these spoiler games. That said, they are performing well against the other teams they need to face.
The narrative that the Isles struggle against the Bruins isn’t really true. The Isles are 5-2 against the Bruins. But the Bruins just took the most recent two. It’s about when you play a team, as well. The Isles are also 2-3 against the Caps this season as well, but have also won the two most recent meetings. Not exactly great for the Rangers, but anything can happen as a team slumps.
Now this is all a bit of a stretch, but the Islanders are still struggling while the Rangers are surging. There is a very realistic scenario where the Rangers win all three against the Islanders. If that happens, do you think the Rangers can make up two additional points in the standings? I think they can.
Same point differential as Boston
It’s also funny what optics of a situation do to our brains. The Rangers are eight points back of the Islanders. They are also four points back of Boston, but Boston has two games in hand. If we assume Boston wins those games, then the Rangers are still eight points back.
Also remember that the Bruins have five games remaining against the Buffalo Sabres. Given how the Bruins have also been surging, it’s safe to assume they win all five games. Then there’s the two games against the Devils. Let’s assume they win both of those.
Sure, the Rangers could take both against the Bruins at the end of the season. It’s possible. But with seven almost guaranteed wins coming up for the Bruins, is catching them a realistic possibility?
Or can the Rangers catch the Islanders instead? The Blueshirts do still control a portion of their own destiny as long as they keep winning. But they do need some help. Specifically, they need the Devils and Sabres to play spoiler to the Bruins and/or Islanders. Preferably both. But again, the Rangers do need to keep winning.