With only 10 games left to play in the season, the New York Rangers are coming together, getting hot and hoping their strong play positions them for a deep playoff run. With 82 points the Rangers are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and hold a three-point lead over the Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals for a playoff spot. They are currently the third seed in the Metropolitan division and would play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round if the season ended today. However getting to the playoffs are not guaranteed, and for the New York Rangers, they will have to continue their hot play of late if they want to make it.
As a team, the rangers have been on a new level since the Winter Olympic break. Derek Stepan in particular has been on a tear. After an up and down start to the season, and a slump before the Olympic break, Stepan has scored four goals and nine assists in the 12 games since hockey resumed. Their young center was expected to deliver big things for the team and recently he has. His inspired play could take his team a long way.
Over that same span Henrik Lundqvist has been even hotter. This season he has set franchise records for most wins ever, passing Mike Richter, and most shut outs for a Ranger goalie in a season. He is 6-2 in his last eight starts, with two shut outs. Has has also let up two or fewer goals in 16 of the Ranger’s last 23 games. He has been the backbone of the team and keeping everyone in check. He got upset with the defensive play last week during a dominant performance over the Ottawa Senators, calling the defenders lazy in the later parts of the game. Since then, the defense has been playing all out as the team continues to win important games and keep their post-season chances alive. However the steady rock of the New York Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist, will have to stay hot for the next 10 games if they plan on getting to the playoffs.
During Friday’s win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Rick Nash got into a fight with their goalie, which is frowned upon in the NHL amongst players. He claimed that their goalie kicked his stick away from him multiple times and he retaliated like normal. Regardless, Nash has been playing inspired and gritty hockey. Last night against the Devils he scored the game’s opening goal, giving him his team leading eighth game winning goal. The Rangers traded for him a few years back to make big plays, and he’s been delivering that this second half of the season.
As a team they seem to be firing on all cylinders right before the playoffs. It will still be a dogfight to get a spot but their destiny is in their own hands. They are three points up on the Detroit Red Wings for the last playoff spot, but Detroit has played two fewer games than the blue shirts. They are also four points up on the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have played one less game, and Toronto is two points behind in the current seventh spot. Their next five games will decide a lot. They play a desperate Phoenix team that is clinging onto the last playoffs pot in the West. Then Philadelphia, who is one point up on the Rangers, and are 8-1-1 in their last 10. They then have two winnable games against Calgary and Edmonton, and one against the fading Vancouver Canucks. Like Mr. Lundqvist said, every point till the end is important and can make a world of difference. As long as they continue to push each other and stay hot, getting to the playoffs and making a run could be a very real possibility for the New York Rangers.
Opinion by Chris Dragicevich