Rangers set sights on Metropolitan division crown ahead of battle vs. Hurricanes

Rangers recent run sets them up nicely for Metro division lead
New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) skates with the puck against Nashville Predators center Tommy Novak (82) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 19, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
AP Photos

A lot can change in an NHL season over a couple of weeks. The first two weeks of March saw the New York Rangers hanging on for dear life with injuries and trade exemptions being made. 

Now, New York is as healthy as they’ve been in weeks and playing the best hockey they’ve had all season. 

Because of their recent performance, the Rangers are now just six points back of first-place Carolina in the Metropolitan division. A home-and-home series between the two teams this week could ultimately decide who ends up at the top spot once the Stanley Cup Playoffs kick off in under a month. 

And the Hurricanes and Blueshirts appear to be going in two separate directions as the month of March draws to a close. The Rangers have won four in a row, six of their last seven, and have outscored their last two opponents by a 13-0 margin. With the expected return of Ryan Lindgren to the defense, New York will have their entire team expected to go this week. 

The same can’t be said for the Hurricanes. While they maintain their Metro lead by a single point over second-place New Jersey (with two games in hand), recent struggles against those same Devils, Toronto, and Philadelphia have left Carolina in a precarious state. Losing Andrei Svechnikov for the season due to a torn ACL doesn’t make their future playoff plans any easier. 

Svechnikov’s absence means the third-leading scorer for Carolina will be out indefinitely. While the Hurricanes certainly are well-balanced enough to make the most of his absence, the Rangers have shown over the last two weeks that opponents will need their entire roster in order to hold them off. 

As the Metro division gets closer, New York’s recent run of dominance has highlighted its recent trade acquisitions the most. 

With the line adjustments moving Artemi Panarin with Vladimir Tarasenko and Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers’ offense has become one of the most complete across the entire NHL. The recent trio has put up 20 combined points in their last four games together. 

Tarasenko and fellow newcomer Patrick Kane were not on the ice when the Rangers beat the Hurricanes twice already this season. But as the playoffs get closer, and the Rangers continue to show how dominant they can be, the new additions could be exactly what New York needs to surpass Carolina’s recent run of Metro division dominance. 

The next two games could be the perfect time for the team to show that. 

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