The New York Rangers are riding high after a dominant 7-4 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night — but now the Blue Shirts are turning their eyes towards the playoffs, and asking whether they can capture the elusive Metropolitan Division crown.
The team from MSG finds themselves 8 points behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes, with 79 points on a 37-17-5 record, compared with their division rival’s 87 points after a 41-12-5 record thus far.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins are neck-and-neck with the Rangers, also boasting 79 points.
As things currently stand, the Rangers would see the Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while Carolina would match up against the Washington Capitals.
Nevertheless, New York has 23 remaining games on their schedule, including three contests against the Hurricane — on March 20, April 12 and April 26.
Meanwhile, 14 of the Rangers’ remaining contests will be in New York, which gives the team a sizable leg-up heading down the stretch. Carolina, on the other hand, has 24 games left to play, with 12 coming in their home stadium.
Even if the team fails to capture the division crown, the Blue Shirts will almost certainly make it to the postseason, as the Eastern Conference currently features three division leaders, along with two Wild Card spots (held by the Capitals and Boston Bruins) who are significantly ahead of the rest of the conferences’ teams.
The Capitals currently hold the second Wild Card spot with 74 points, while the next-best team (the Columbus Bluejackets) are behind with just 61 points.
The data-driven site FiveThirtyEight gives the Rangers over a 99% chance of securing a playoff berth, along with a 9% chance of making the Stanley Cup finals.
Left-winger Artemi Panarin leads the team in individual points with 68, after scoring 16 goals and assisting on 52 others. Center Mika Zibanejad trails Panarin with 59 points on 23 goals and 36 assists.
The Rangers’ next game comes at home against the Anaheim Ducks on March 15, before hosting the Islanders on March 17.