The New York Rangers have pulled even with the Carolina Hurricanes atop the Metropolitan Division, giving the Blue Shirts hope for home ice in the playoffs as the season winds down.
The team shutout the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night to record their 106th point on the year with just 5 games remaining, and the red-hot Rangers look poised to make a serious run to overtake their division rival down the stretch.
Beating the Jets by a 3–0 margin gave the team their 3rd-straight shutout win, after blanking the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers. The team from MSG has now won 6 of their last 7 matchups, which propelled them to catch the Hurricanes in the divisional standings.
“It’s definitely a goal — we want to finish first,” said Head Coach Gerard Gallant. “But we’re going to take it one game at a time, and see what happens.”
The coach credited the stellar play of star goalie Igor Shesterkin for anchoring the team’s defense, as the Russian-born net-minder has recorded a league-high .936 save percentage on the season.
“The goaltending has been really strong for us recently,” Gallant said. “It’s been great to see.”
The team that wins the division will be guaranteed home ice through the first 2 rounds of the playoffs — first against one of the two conference Wild Card teams, before hosting the winner of the series between the 2nd and 3rd seeds in the Metropolitan Division.
The winner who emerges from those 2 rounds would go on to play the winner of the Atlantic Division bracket in the Eastern Conference finals.
No team in the Metropolitan Division is likely to catch the Atlantic Division’s Panthers with their 116 points, so, if Florida makes the Eastern Conference finals, they will host the winner of the Metropolitan Division bracket in a battle for entry into the Stanley Cup.
For more coverage of the Metropolitan Division race, head to amNY.com
Still, securing home ice advantage for at-least the first 2 rounds would be an enormous advantage for the Rangers, who boast a 26-8-4 home record, compared to their 24-13-2 record on the road.
While both teams have 5 remaining games that will determine which club gets the #1 seed in the division, the most critical game will come on April 26, when the two teams face off against each other in Carolina — which will go a long way towards clarifying the standings.
The Rangers’ other 4 games come against the New York Islanders (April 21), the Boston Bruins (April 23), the Montreal Canadiens (April 27), and the Washington Capitals (April 29).
“When you’re having the season that we’re having, you want to get home ice — that’s the next goal,” said Gallant after the team clinched a playoff berth earlier this month.