As Metro division gets tighter, Rangers enter another must-win battle against Devils

Rangers enter must-win against Devils
New York Rangers defenseman Braden Schneider, second from right, celebrates after scoring in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photos

Do the New York Rangers have only themselves to blame? 

While it’s still considered early in the NHL season, New York’s three-game winning streak couldn’t come at a better time against some of the league’s top teams. Unfortunately for the Rangers, their winning streak has still left them on the outside looking into the NHL’s best division. 

New York sits fifth in the Metro division, still just three points behind Carolina and Pittsburgh for second place, but also just a point above the Capitals for sixth. 

What’s the lesson? The Metro division is a lot tougher this season, and the Rangers cannot afford any key losses anymore. 

Bring on the Devils. Since the 2022-23 season began, the New Jersey Devils have played like one of the best hockey teams in the NHL. They are second in the league in points, second in point differential, and have a perfect blend of young talent and savvy veterans. 

The New York Rangers certainly have the talent to match a team like the Devils. They just haven’t played like it all year. Just a week removed from home losses to Chicago and Ottawa, the Rangers were a team that potentially had their coach on the hot seat with an 11-10-5 record. 

Three straight wins against the Blues, Golden Knights, and Avalanche have lowered the talk of a potential coaching change, but only for a moment. 

If the Rangers miss the playoffs this season with the talent they have on their current roster, it wouldn’t be a surprise if swift and aggressive actions are taken by the front office looking to get back to the postseason. That leaves the Rangers with only one choice: continue to beat the NHL’s best teams. It seems they might be hitting their stride at the right time as well. 

New York has gotten improved play from Igor Shesterkin over the last few games. The reigning Vezina winner has been on the ice for the last three wins and has given up a goal in each of his last two. While injuries certainly played a part in the Rangers’ recent win streak, a chance has opened for the Blueshirts to get back into the playoff hunt in a loaded Metro division. 

It may seem crazy to think that upcoming games against the Devils and Maple Leafs could decide the future coaching tenure of Gerard Gallant, but the Rangers have no one to blame but themselves. 

Win the next few games, and they are back in the playoffs. Lose, and a frustrating start to the season could get much worse. 

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