New York Rangers
AP Photo

The New York Rangers have officially been eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention. If nothing else, the 2018-19 season has been greatly beneficial. 

Despite a gutsy win on Saturday night against the dangerous Toronto Maple Leafs, the New York Rangers were eliminated from playoff contention that evening. Given the team’s record and other factors, it was bound to happen.

Though the team put up a valiant effort with all the one-goal games, they weren’t able to secure enough of them to stay in the discussion. What makes it frustrating is looking at the Rangers overtime losses and blown leads. What makes looking at them frustrating? The fact that if just some of those games go a different way, this young team would at least still be well in the playoff hunt.

Nevertheless, the 2018-19 NHL season has provided a great learning experience for the Blueshirts.

A few months ago, I wrote an article on how the Rangers lacked killer instinct. The team continued to keep their opponents in the game and it was a recurring problem from their postseason runs. That proved to be true again this season.

The Rangers are at the bottom of the NHL when scoring first with a .441 win percentage. Oftentimes, they grabbed two-goal leads just to squander them as they did last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Now, let’s look at the games they’ve lead by two and lost. They blew two-goal leads to opponents like the New York Islanders, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals, and on Monday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins. They even surrendered a couple of three-goal leads to the Arizona Coyotes and Winnipeg Jets. Through December alone, the Rangers were 3-4-3 when taking 2-0 leads.

If that wasn’t enough, it’s time to analyze overtime.

No number in the Blueshirts record shows just how different things could have been more than the overtime losses. The Rangers fell 13 times in overtime this year. Their record in the 3-on-3 is 2-9 while they’re 6-4 in shootouts. Hypothetically, if the Rangers took nine of those games, they would be just six points (three games) behind the Montreal Canadiens for the last wild-card spot with a game in hand.

Now looking back at the blown leads, again we’re playing “What if?”

What if the Rangers hold off three of those opponents, along with the hypothetical nine overtime wins mentioned above, they would then sit tied in the last wild-card spot with a game in hand. Obviously, that’s a big what if because everything else would need to play out the same.

Unfortunately, that’s all Ranger fans can do at this point in the season. Play the “what if” game. Many members of the team are very inexperienced. The average age of the Rangers is 26-years-old, and that number is a little inflated thanks to the 37-year-old Henrik Lundqvist.

It’s frustrating, fans, I know. But this is not the season to hit the panic button. When considering how young the team is, the draft picks they’ll have this year and next, and the anticipated arrivals of Vitali Kravtsov and K’Andre Miller, true upside has yet to be fully discovered.

Not everyone can be as lucky as the 2017 New York Yankees. Different sport, but that team struck a gold mine. Ninety percent of rebuilds take more time.

It’s easy to get frustrated when thinking about the what-ifs, as previously mentioned. The Rangers were in so many games and had so many opportunities to change the script. But let’s stop playing what-if and put on some realistic lenses.

This young team is showing its potential along with some growing pains. Take those growing pains any day of the week if it means these baby Blueshirts are aiming to reach full potential. There’s plenty of time for them to figure out how to bury their opponents.

Let’s call this season what it is, “A great learning experience.”

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