The New York Rangers have been nothing shy of excellent to start the 2023-24 season. The Blueshirts were projected to be a playoff contender heading into the year, but the events that have transpired 21 games into the season have come as a welcomed surprise.
The Rangers currently lead the NHL in both wins and points percentage. The standings have been quite volatile to start the year, with a handful of teams taking turns as the number one team across the league. But following last night’s victory over the Detroit Red Wings, the Rangers seem to have given themselves a bit of a hold on the top spot.
The Athletic projects the Rangers to finish the season as the top team in the NHL
Per The Athletic, based on 50,000 probability simulations, the Rangers are projected to win the President’s Trophy this season as the number one team in the NHL. Their data has the Blueshirts ending the year with a league-winning 111 points, and a 99% chance of making the playoffs.
Some notable teams projected to finish closely behind New York include Boston, Dallas, and Colorado, all teams that are currently close to the Rangers at this point and time. It’ll surely be a tight race until the end of game 82, but the odds appear to be in favor of the Blueshirts.
The odds of a Stanley Cup victory are still lower than what fans want to see
According to the same projection produced by The Athletic, the Rangers only possess a 16% chance of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, and only an 8% chance of bringing the Stanley Cup home for the first time in 30 years.
This is a frightening sight to see, as Boston and Dallas, the two teams projected to finish second and third overall, have 15% and 12% chances to win the championship, respectively.
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The playoff path will be harder than ever before
The reason for the Rangers having a lower chance of winning the Stanley Cup is likely due to their projected path to reach the Finals in the playoffs. The NHL’s Eastern Conference is a powerhouse, and the Blueshirts will have to take on some of the best teams in the league to advance to each round of the postseason.
The same argument could be made for Boston, but their Atlantic Division is slightly less dominant than the Blueshirts’ Metropolitan. The chances of the Rangers and Bruins facing off at some point in the postseason seem inevitable, as that may prove to be the most challenging stage of the playoffs before a possible Stanley Cup Championship.
A possible SCF rematch?
Ten years ago, the Rangers made their last Stanley Cup Finals appearance against the Los Angeles Kings. LA would go on to win the Championship in five games, in what was a series closer than the numbers initially show.
Now, on the ten-year anniversary of that heartbreaking loss, The Athletic has both the Rangers and the Kings with relatively similar chances of making it back to the Finals. A possible rematch a decade later would give the Rangers an incredible shot at redemption, especially with former King Jonathan Quick now repping the Blueshirts as backup goaltender.
Of course, this is all speculation. Only 21 games into the season, the Rangers still have plenty of work to be done in order to make the playoffs, let alone reach the Stanley Cup Finals. But if the Blueshirts continue to play like they have to begin the season, the chances of The Athletic’s Presidents Trophy predictions will become higher and higher.