This season hasn’t gone according to plan for the New York Rangers, but with a strong start after the All-Star break, they can still save their season.
The damage that the month of January brought the New York Rangers seems unfixable. But in reality, it’s not quite over yet and the team has a chance to get right back in the middle of the playoff hunt with the right moves.
This idea is one that seems comical on the surface. The team didn’t play great leading up to the All-Star break. That was evident by going 1-3-0 prior to their six days off. They blew several leads and, at times, just seemed completely outmatched against potential playoff opponents.
When looking at the road has ahead, this team has a legitimate chance at making a run. It won’t be easy, but it can most definitely be done.
Beat the teams you’re supposed to beat
The Rangers’ schedule will not be easy as the season continues to unfold. They have 12 games remaining against teams in the Metropolitan Division, which is currently wide open.
If the Rangers can manage to get six wins out of those remaining 12 games, that’s 12 points added to their record. Points are very valuable, especially at this time of year. Getting them in your own division is especially important, considering that will be the way the Rangers can get back into the playoff mix.
They have 13 games against teams outside of the playoff picture. Those games are the definition of trap games, considering the quality of play in the NHL this season. But these games are also going to be the games that will determine whether or not this Rangers team is playing come April or if they are on the golf courses.
If there is an issue with the way the remaining schedule looks, it’s that 19 of the 32 remaining games will be played on the road. The Rangers have struggled mightily away from Madison Square Garden this year, with a road record of 8-12-2. In order for them to take advantage of their schedule, they must figure out how to become road warriors once again.
The Metropolitan Division is wide open
|Team||Games Played||Wins||Losses||OT Losses||Points|
|New Jersey Devils||49||25||16||8||58|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||50||27||19||4||58|
|New York Rangers||50||25||20||5||55|
|New York Islanders||51||25||21||5||55|
When looking at the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division, anyone can sneak in. The Rangers are just three points out of the third Metro spot, which is currently being held by a struggling New Jersey Devils team.
Teams in the division will have a chance to beat up on each other as the season concludes. This means that one team inside the playoffs will most likely fall outside of the mix, allowing for another to jump right in. A month from now, the Rangers could be in first place as easily as they could be in last.
The Metropolitan Division is by far the toughest division in hockey. Just nine points separate first place from last place, the smallest division lead in the NHL. A fringe playoff team has a chance at making it and if the playoffs are still the ultimate goal for this Rangers team, then there most definitely is a chance.
The trade deadline can be monumental
No matter what the Rangers do at the trade deadline, this team will still have pieces that can compete in a playoff race.
If the team decides to go in a direction that leads to them selling, the new pieces they would potentially bring in are young and have something to prove. If sports have taught us one thing, it’s that young teams with no expectations are the most dangerous teams. The Vegas Golden Knights are a prime example of this, sitting second in the NHL as an expansion team.
What if the Rangers go on a run and put themselves in a position to become buyers this year? They could bring in a player that might be able to make a difference. The team can improve and, with a talented leader like Henrik Lundqvist, they always have a chance.
Now, asking if the Rangers being buyers at the deadline is beneficial to the franchise or not is a debate that should not be ignored. This is the question that general manager Jeff Gorton and head coach Alain Vigneault have to figure out how to answer over the next few weeks.
The next few weeks will give us a better idea of where this team stands. If everything goes the Rangers’ way, it won’t be impossible for the Rangers to make the playoffs.