The Rangers still sit in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, one point back of the Islanders, and two points ahead of the Winnipeg/Washington faction with a game in hand. Excuse me for getting ahead of myself here, but looking at the Rangers upcoming schedule and position in the standings, I am 100% confident that this club will make the playoffs. At this point, it’s about jockeying for playoff seeding.
At this point, seeds 1-5 are essentially a given. The #1 seed will be Pittsburgh. The #2 seed will be either Boston or Montreal. The #3 seed will be either Washington or Winnipeg. The #4 seed is either Boston or Montreal, and the #5 seed is Toronto. Toronto is the only team that could be unseated from their spot, but it’s unlikely any of Ottawa, the Islanders, or the Rangers are capable of doing that this late in the season.
As mentioned above, the Rangers are currently in the #8 seed. They hold the tiebreaker and a game in hand on the Islanders (one point ahead). The Isles currently have one more ROW than the Rangers, but that game in hand –especially given the upcoming schedule– will play into the Rangers favor. A tie in points and ROW means the Rangers still get that #7 seed and a date with the Northeast Division winner.
Now it’s the Ottawa situation that gets very interesting. The Sens have seven games remaining in the season, and five of them are against teams either headed to the playoffs or in the playoff race. The Rangers also have seven games remaining, but none are against playoff teams. The advantage here is clearly with the Rangers. If the Rangers finish with just one more win than the Sens over this time period, then the Rangers will leapfrog the Sens.
It’s actually very interesting to see this situation. One more win than the Sens and the Isles, and the Rangers jump to sixth in the conference and a date with the Southeast Division winner. This is a team that is 5-1-1 in their last seven games. They are clearly capable of winning just a single game more than the Sens and Isles.
No one wants a date with the Penguins in the first round as the #8 seed. And since this is the Rangers, they want to avoid the #7 seed and a possible matchup with Montreal. They should be striving for that #6 seed and a date with Washington/Winnipeg. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s definitely doable. Of course, this all comes down to execution on the Rangers part, but I think now is a good time to be confident about this team heading into the playoffs.