With the regular season ending on Sunday, the Rangers still have a shot at home ice advantage for the playoffs. It looks increasingly likely that the Rangers will square off against New Jersey in what promises to be another exciting series between the division rivals.
New York has dominated the Devils during the regular season going 7-0 for the first time against a team since 1968. But despite the seeming dominance, the games have been close. Four of the seven games have been decided by one goal, one of those in overtime and two in the shootout. There’ll be no shootout of course in the playoffs.
Then again, the playoffs have very little to do with the regular season in most cases, and taking on an experienced Devils outfit is not particularly appealing. All the more reason to try and get every advantage you can.
So for the Rangers to secure the fourth spot, they need the following to happen:
1. The Devils must lose to the Flyers tonight
2. The Rangers must beat the Devils on Sunday (in regulation if the Devils get a point tonight)
3. The Rangers must gain one point on the Devils tonight
It’s that simple.
Of course the Flyers have their own troubles, and face the Devils and Penguins as they try to make their way back into the playoffs, and they have to do it against a team they’ve struggled to beat all season (they’re 1-6 with the win coming in their first match-up).
If the Devils win tonight, then the best the Rangers can hope for is 5th spot, with the home ice going to their division rivals.
There are those who would argue that the Hurricanes would be a better first round match-up, but there’s no guarantee the Rangers would fare any better against the projected #3 seed. The teams split the regular season series 2-2 and there would of course be a greater travel burden on the team than simply taking a bus to Newark.
There’s also the consideration for the second round, where the Rangers could potentially avoid playing the top seeded team if there’s an upset in any of the other three series.
Whatever way it turns out, the only clear thing to aim for in these last two games is to make a play for that last home ice spot.