With a 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday the New York Rangers are on a path to finish the season in 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division and have home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Though the New York Rangers have not been mathematically eliminated from first place contention, the odds are stacked against them. A Saturday loss to the Boston Bruins plus weekend wins for the Carolina Hurricanes over the New Jersey Devils Saturday and the New York Islanders Sunday find the Hurricanes four points (112 Pts.) ahead of the Blueshirts (108 pts.).
The two teams will meet for the final time on Tuesday night at MSG.
The Rangers had been following the play of the team they have been hunting down and had some hope when the Devils held a two-goal lead late in their game against the Hurricanes on Saturday. Unfortunately for New York their cross-river rivals squandered the lead and lost to Carolina in overtime.
“We watched it because you always watch a game,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said when asked if he was paying attention to the Hurricanes. “It was 2-0 [Saturday], then all of a sudden, it was 3-2. We want to finish first. We want to win every game we play. But at the end of the day, when the season’s over, if we’re first or second, we still have home ice. It is what it is, but we want to try and win as many games as we can.”
Their playoff opponent in the first round is still undetermined with two teams battling for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
As of Monday morning, the Pittsburgh Penguins were in third place with 101 points and two games remaining. Just one point being the Pens with 100 points are the Washington Capitals who hold the final wild-card position entering the final week of the NHL season.
The Caps have three games remaining including a contest against the Rangers on Friday at the Garden. The game is the final game of the regular season for both clubs.
As important as it is to know who the team will be playing when the postseason begins, Rangers forward Kevin Rooney admits the team has been focusing more on the Blueshirt’s game and less on their opponent’s game as this season winds down.
“I think what we’ve done a great job of this year — at least Turk’s message has been always about us. Even going into the Islanders game [Thursday night], we showed a lot of clips before the game on our game and not too much on theirs. I think that’s huge this time of year, is just focusing on our game. He went on to say to Mollie Walker of the New York Post, “We’re not sure who we’re going to play, no matter who we’re going to play, it’s all going to be about the way we play and what makes us successful. In the back of our heads, we want to keep playing our game and doing the right things and the wins and losses hopefully will take care of itself.”
First place or second place in the division doesn’t matter to the club. They all know that in order to make a deep run into the Stanley Cup Playoffs they are going to have to defeat good hockey teams. All eight teams coming out of the Eastern Conference have 100 points or more this season. A feat never accomplished in the NHL.
The playoffs begin on Monday, May 2.