We are coming up on the halfway point of the season in this lockout shortened season. The New York Rangers have played just 21 games going into the Thursday night tilt with their division rivals, the New York Islanders out on Long Island. The 21 games represents the second lowest total games played (they are tied with the Washington Capitals, Calgary Flames and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings). The Boston Bruins have the least games played at 20, yet have the most points to show for it with 31 points.
The next 8 games will be very critical for the team as six of them are on the road, where the team has struggled going 2-4-1. Although the travel demands are not what they would be during the course of a regularly scheduled season, playing games back-to-back or every other night does take its toll on the human body. Here is the schedule from today, March 7th, and the next eight games, including won-loss record, points and goal scored differential:
March 7- at New York Islanders, 10-11-2, 22 points, -8
March 8- home Ottawa Senators, 12-8-4, 28 points, + 7
March 10- at Washington Capitals, 9-11-1, 19 points, -3
March 12- at Buffalo Sabres, 9-13-2, 20 points, -14
March 14- at Winnipeg Jets, 10-11-1, 21 points, -12
March 16- at Pittsburg Penguins, 15-8-0, 30 points, +14
March 18- home Carolina Hurricanes, 13-8-1, 27 points, +5
March 19- at New Jersey Devils, 10-8-5, 24 points, -9
The combined record of the next eight opponents is 88-78-16, but the goals scored differential is -24. The record is skewed by the Penguins seven games over .500 and having scored 14 more goals then they have allowed. Four of the eight teams are currently is a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with no team more than five points out of the 8th spot currently held by the Rangers.
The reason this stretch of games is important, and all games this year are important due to the shortened season, is because they have to show that they can go on the road and beat these teams in their own barns not just in the regular season, but to show they can get it done if they were to match up with any of them in the playoffs. It is foolish to think that a perfect 8-0 stretch is possible, grabbing all 16 possible points. I do think that 11 points out of 16 is realistic.
The power play has improved since my last writing, going from 11.9% (29th in the league) to 14.7% (24th in the league). The team is hoping the addition of recently claimed Roman Hamrlik from the Washington Capitals will help the PP once he starts to get regular minutes on the ice. It also helps that Rick Nash is back after missing a couple games with an “undisclosed injury”. As much as Brad Richards has been criticized lately, his health, leadership and skill will be vital during the eight games coming up.
I’m not going to say that this is make or break time for the Blueshirts, but putting together an impressive run over the next 12 days is not only vital for them making the playoffs, but for also redeeming themselves for coming up short last season with the disappointing six game defeat to the rival New Jersey Devils. With the Devils struggling as of late, losers of six straight, this could be the opportunity to eliminate one of the roadblocks to getting back to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Filed Under: Rangers
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