The New York Rangers had a prime opportunity Tuesday night to get within striking distance of the Metropolitan division lead with just 11 games to go.
Unfortunately, the team failed on the ice and are now left with the disappointment of knowing that their playoff future rests where they currently are barring any major collapse from the teams above them.
That doesn’t mean it’s time to panic though.
With only a handful of games remaining on their season, New York understands that it is difficult to keep up the level of play the fans had grown accustomed to over the last few weeks. The Rangers went 6-0-1 in their last seven contests before Tuesday’s loss to Carolina.
Only a three-goal third period by the Hurricanes ended the Ranger’s recent run. For that particular reason, the team’s leadership group isn’t worried about hitting the panic button just yet.
“Your game is going to ramp up and get a little faster, the battle will be more intense. It’s one game. I think we’ve liked how we played the last stretch here, I don’t think anybody’s going to panic. We didn’t have our best tonight and we move on and play another one in two days.” captain Jacob Trouba said following the loss.
New York’s head coach, Gerard Gallant later echoed his captain’s statement saying that while he doesn’t worry about the stats and standings going into games like Tuesday night’s he believed his squad “didn’t play well enough to beat that team (tonight.”
While there certainly won’t be much concern following a loss that ends a dominant stretch, there were still some on the team that understood the missed opportunity the team went through last night.
“It’s tough. We play them tonight and two days from now. I think it was an opportunity for us to make it interesting in the standings.” Jimmy Vesey explained.
Now trailing Carolina by 10 points, the odds of the Rangers catching them for the Metro division crown is unlikely. Therefore, the Rangers’ goal to end the year has shifted. Their position in the Stanley Cup Playoffs looks to be the same over the last few months: a third-place finish in the Metro division. With that, that means playing well to end the year and getting some momentum going into a potential playoff series against New Jersey will be the main focus for the Blueshirts as the calendar turns to late March.
The points “won’t matter” to Gallant or his team at this point.
But the goal now shifts to just playing better than they did the night before.