Rangers: Remaining schedule presents easy path to the 2024 Presidents Trophy, but should they want it?

New York Rangers center Vincent Trocheck (16) celebrates with defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (5) and defenseman Ryan Lindgren (55) after the game against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena
Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are currently the top team in the NHL, but only lead the Dallas Stars by one point with one game in hand. There are seven teams all within five points of each other for the number one spot, creating a tight race for the Presidents Trophy in the final stretch of the season. These teams will be battling it out for home-ice advantage throughout the entirety of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Blueshirts’ remaining schedule provides them a key advantage in winning this race.

The Rangers’ hardest part of their schedule has come to an end, leaving a somewhat easy final nine games remaining

The most recent portion of the Blueshirts’ schedule was perhaps the most difficult of the season. They came across one contender after another and had to play without a few key defensive players. The Rangers’ last game came as a massive win against the Colorado Avalanche in a shootout, where they ended Nathan MacKinnon’s incredible 19-game point streak and 35-game home point streak. Despite being an incredibly tough few weeks, the Rangers still managed to somehow go 20-4-1 in their last 25 games.

Following their matchup against Colorado, the Blueshirts’ schedule appears to lighten up immensely for the remainder of the regular season. With nine games remaining, only one of those matchups is against a team currently holding a playoff position in the standings– the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers will come across teams who have struggled this year, including the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. With seven different teams gunning for the Presidents Trophy, this final stretch of easier games presents a strong advantage in the Rangers’ favor.

How strong of a push should the Rangers be making for the Presidents Trophy?

As nice as it seems to have the Blueshirts finish the regular season as the top team in the NHL for the first time since 2015, there are a few reasons why their priorities should be set elsewhere. In recent games, Peter Laviolette has opted to scratch a handful of players. Will Cuylle sat out a few matchups ago, and Matt Rempe was benched last game against Colorado.

It has nothing to do with their recent play, but letting them rest ahead of what is expected to be a long postseason run. It’s a smart move by Laviolette, but continuously letting some of the Rangers’ key players sit out may jeopardize their chances of winning the President’s Trophy in the long run. Fans may debate which is more important, but a fully rested team for the playoffs seems much better than winning a regular season award.

Aside from strategic reasons, the President’s Trophy curse could be brought up as well. For as long as many fans can remember, whoever has won the award has come short of winning the more important trophy- the Stanley Cup. The Rangers fell victim to this curse too in 2015, where their postseason run ended in the Eastern Conference Finals. There’s no actual proof that this curse is real, but for the superstitious fans out there, it could be enough to make them wish the Rangers would not finish as the number one team.

At the end of the day, having home-ice advantage in the playoffs is the most important thing. The Rangers have already clinched it in the first round, but winning the Presidents Trophy would secure it for the entirety of the postseason. And while letting players rest has been a smart move by Laviolette, the Rangers have managed to continuously win while doing so.

The only debate then comes down to the so-called Presidents Trophy curse, but the Rangers might just be good enough this season to break it. Undoubtedly, gunning for the top spot in the NHL should be the Rangers’ top priority right now.

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