The New York Rangers are in rebuilding mode, but they aren’t out of the playoff race yet. Unfortunately, their overtime losses are concerning.
The New York Rangers continue to win just enough to remain in the playoff picture, albeit on the outside looking in. A handful of points left on the board in December may just make the difference between a young team overachieving and gaining playoff experience and a second straight regular season without a playoff berth as the rebuild continues.
While the team got off to a slow 4-7-1 start in October, they got back in the chase in November with a 9-4-1 record. December saw a regression at 4-3-5 and some missed opportunities that could come back to hurt the team in what is now the part of the season that will be of interest if the team misses the playoffs by just a few points.
Prior to last season, the only time a Henrik Lundqvist-led team missed the playoffs was in 2009-10. That year the team fell just a point short of the seven and eight seeds in the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers, the latter of which they lost to on the last day of the season in a shootout. While a team obviously hopes to win every single night, those types of losses, in the extra time where it is often a toss-up, are where the Rangers will have to look if they find themselves done playing hockey on April 8.
In October and November, the team played 26 games and only had two overtime losses. Of the 12 games in December, they lost five in the extra period. Entering December they were 5-2 in games that went into overtime or a shootout, notably going 4-0 in shootouts. In December the wheels came off once regulation ended with the team going 1-5 after three periods of hockey. The five points they left on the ice were not only up for grabs but, in most cases, the Rangers were in a position to win.
Against the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 2, the Rangers blew a three-goal lead in the third period, eventually losing their first shootout of the season. On Dec. 14, the Rangers were up 3-0 at one point against the Arizona Coyotes and up two goals going into the third period before losing on an overtime goal by former blueshirt Derek Stepan. The Rangers let up a game-tying goal with only 2:20 left in the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 27 in a game they would lose in the opening moments of overtime.
Two other overtime loses in the month came with the Rangers scoring a tying goal in the final period but failing to capitalize on that momentum and grab that second point. That’s something their opponents seem to do very well. In the Rangers’ lone win after 60 minutes in the month, they opened the door to disappointment by letting up a goal to bring things even in the last 10 minutes.
With the Rangers eight points back from the playoffs with two games in hand, those five points left on the board in overtime may be the difference between making and missing the postseason. There are other potential culprits such as poor play on the road to the tune of an away record of 6-10-2 that may be too much to overcome with strong play in Madison Square Garden. Perhaps a 9-1-1 stretch like was seen in early November will put the team back on the right side of the bubble. If it does not, remember those points left on the board.