It was the St. Patrick’s Day Massacre at MSG. In a thing of beauty, the Rangers destroyed the Flyers 9-0. Oh, AND they did it with their AHL Head Coach and Assistant GM behind the bench; their coaching staff remains in COVID-19 protocol. The star of the game was more than just a star, Mika Zibanejad had 6 points – scoring three goals AND three assists. All six of his points came in the second period, tying the NHL record for most points in a period. Let’s relive it, shall we?
The Rangers are now halfway through their season, and sit six points behind a playoff spot. The fourth seed in the East is anyone’s game, with the Bruins, Penguins, and Flyers all playing inconsistently as of late. With this in mind, where do we go from here?
The Playoff Race
The Rangers have 28 games to make up those six points. They are at .500 (14-14-4), which is incredible when you consider all the craziness happening this season. From the DeAngelo fallout, injuries, and Panarin’s off-ice issues, they have had three seasons-worth of drama in just 28 games. With this in mind, how can the Rangers make a move for the post-season?
Beat the Bad Teams
The Rangers need to consistently beat the Devils and Sabers. Let’s face it, Buffalo is a straight up dumpster fire right now. Eichel is out for probably the rest of the season, they just fired their coach, and Taylor Hall is likely out the door. They only have 6 wins on the season so far, and the Rangers cannot give them anymore. They play the Sabres five more times this year, they need all ten of those points. The Devils are another team falling apart. They only have three wins in their last 10, with one coming against the Sabers. They play the Devils in a four-game series starting April 13th. The Rangers need t three out of four in that series to remain competitive. These nine games present a great opportunity to gain in the standings.
Continue Success Against Washington
For whatever reason, and in a surprise to many, the Rangers have looked great in their two games against Washington. Two of the most complete games the team has played this year have been against Washington. Friday, the Rangers and Caps kick off a two-game weekend series, two of the six total left against Ovechkin and co. If the Rangers can continue their success against this contending team, they can get some must needed points in their quest for the fourth seed.
Figure Out the Islanders
The Blueshirts and Isles have five games left against one another. Right now, the Islanders are arguably the hottest team in the NHL. The Islanders have won two of the three match ups so far this season against NYR, and have showcased some excellent goaltending. Four of the five upcoming games are at the Coliseum, so the Rangers will need to win on the island. They have had some success at the Coli recently, so hopefully they can build on that and steal some points on the road.
After his St. Paddy’s Day success, you have to think Mika has finally arrived for the season. After an absolutely abysmal start to the year, lets hope last night was his coming out party. If Mika can get hot like he did last year, he can carry a team to the playoffs. Since he’s returned from is leave of absence, Panarin has been on fire; if these two get rolling, this Rangers offense can take off and surprise some people in the East. Couple that with the improved defense, and this team can contend with anyone.
Hopefully the Rangers get Igor back soon, and then the whole band is back together. Looking forward to seeing if they can build on this win and turn it on in the second half of the year.
Please be sure to bookmark our hockey page for hockey coverage and follow Belly Up Hockey on Twitter: @BellyUpHockey. Follow me on Twitter for more takes on the New York Rangers: @KHallNY. You can also listen to my NY Rangers podcast The Broadway Hat Podcast on Apple Podcast and Spotify for Rangers news and interviews with past and current players.