At 3-3-2, the Rangers are at hockey .500 due to their slow start, while teams like the Flyers and Devils are leading the division with 10 points each. As always, doom and gloom has set in with the Rangers in 7th in the division after just 8 games. A light schedule in November favors the Blueshirts, and this is when the Rangers need to make a run. The Blueshirts have at least 10 games against non-playoff teams, and this is their time to silence the panic and the doubters.
Just 2 “bonafide” playoff teams
Over the next 16 games, the Rangers get Dallas, Arizona (x2), Philly, Boston, Detroit (x2), Isles, Nashville, Seattle, San Jose, LA, Anaheim, Edmonton, Devils, and Ottawa. Entering the season, only Boston and Edmonton were considered locks for the playoffs. The Devils, Stars, Kings, and maybe one of Anaheim/Isles were considered bubble teams. As the season has progressed, we know the Devils are in the running, and the Isles may not be as bad as we thought due to Ilya Sorokin in net.
Either way, the Rangers are looking at 2 games against “sure fire” playoff teams, and 4 or 5 games against bubble teams. The rest will be against non-playoff teams. This is when the Rangers need to make a run. We’ve been brushing off the panic that has set in after a .500 start, and for good reason. The Rangers are in a shooting slump for sure, and when that corrects itself this is still a playoff team.
This is when the Rangers need to make a run
Brushing off panic doesn’t mean we don’t recognize that this is when the Rangers need to make a run. The Blueshirts may get goalie’d against Dallas given how hot Jake Oettinger has been. But after that, they have games that aren’t “must wins” but are more like “please wins” against Arizona, Philly, two against Detroit, Ottawa, Seattle, and Nashville, with some tougher games sprinkled in.
Expecting the Rangers to go undefeated in that span is unrealistic, so expect a few clunkers that make you want to pull your hair out. If you assume the Rangers go .500 against the playoff and bubble teams, and let’s call that 3-2-1, then you have 10 games that the Rangers really need to crush. Out of these 16 games, anything less than 10 wins is likely not good enough and a true cause for concern.
This is when the Rangers need to make a run, and the easiest path to that run starts tomorrow with Arizona. In order, the Rangers have Arizona, Philly, Boston, Detroit, Isles, Detroit, Nashville, Arizona, Seattle, San Jose, LA, and Anaheim. That’s 12 very winnable games, with Boston being the most difficult opponent. Can the Rangers go 10-2 in that span? They may not, but they should. There will be deserved panic and criticism if the Rangers fail to dominate in that stretch.
The current panic, with the Rangers two points out of a division lead, is a bit early. Thanksgiving and Black Friday are usually when we are able to figure out what the Rangers are. For some of the panic to subside, the Rangers need to make a run. This is their best chance to show they truly are a playoff time.
The good news is that the Rangers appear to be getting healthy just in time for this stretch in the schedule. Vitali Kravtsov is returning today against Dallas, and hopefully will be able to stay in the lineup for more than two games in a row. Filip Chytil skated, but didn’t make the trip. He is most likely to return next week, possibly against the Flyers. We have had two shifts with the Rangers at full strength, and that has certainly impacted what we see on the ice.
The Rangers need to make a run, and it does start with them getting healthy. A healthy Rangers team leads to more mismatches against bad opponents, which in turn should help their shooting rate return to normal. The offense is producing chances, they just aren’t finishing yet. They will, and the Rangers will hopefully make a big run in November. Otherwise, we are in for a rough ride.