With eleven games to go, the Rangers are nearing a position where they can clinch a playoff spot. Although they’ve nominally looked certain of a post season appearance for some weeks now, tomorrow night could make it official.
The Blueshirts have already eliminated seven of the eight teams they need to, in order to clinch a playoff spot, with the New York Islanders being the sole team that can still mathematically catch them.
The simplest path to clinchin a playoff spot would be a Rangers win, which would result in:
NYR 98 points
NYI 73 points and 13 games remaining
In this scenario, the Islanders can get a maximum of 99 points, and a regulation loss tomorrow would drop that maximum number to 97 points, and give the Rangers enough points to officially qualify for the playoffs.
If the Rangers only manage one point tonight, and the Isles still lose in regulation tomorrow, then they’d need just one more point to clinch (either won by the Rangers, or lost by the Islanders) with the next opportunity coming Saturday against Ottawa.
In a worst case scenario where the Rangers lose tonight in regulation, and the Islanders beat Carolina tomorrow (in any form or fashion), then it could still be resolved Saturday with the Blueshirts hosting the Senators and the Isles in St Louis.
The Rangers are almost certainly going to qualify in the next few days, even if it drags out to Tuesday (against Carolina) or beyond, but getting this milestone out of the way will give them a chance to shift focus to both playoff positioning and more importantly, sorting out their line-up for the first round.