The New York Rangers remain red hot of late as they’ve won seven of their last ten games and are now just two measly points off the division leading Carolina Hurricanes.
The blueshirts have been strong basically all season, but right now, they couldn’t have picked a better time to be playing their best brand of hockey. The team has just 11 games remaining including a pair of home games against the Carolina Hurricanes on April 12th and April 26th.
Right now the Rangers need to keep playing the way they have over this remaining stretch of games and continue to put points up in the standings.
The Rangers’ next game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night is going to be huge. The Penguins are next in the division behind New York and with the Hurricanes facing the cupcake that is the Buffalo Sabres, it makes it all the more important for New York to hold the pace.
In fact, the Rangers are in a situation where they must win their next two games against the Penguins on Thursday night and Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. Both games are on their home ice at Madison Square Garden and if they can win both, they’ll still be just two points out of first heading into Tuesday night’s huge game.
After an incredibly close 1-0 defeat to the Penguins in the two teams’ first meeting back in late February, the Rangers have since beaten Pittsburgh twice and look to win the season series on Thursday night.
Despite a great effort all season, this team’s big weakness has been an inability to score consistently. It’s what spelled their downfall to the Penguins in the teams’ initial meeting, but the Rangers were able to remedy that in the last two meetings with Pittsburgh as they won 5-1 and 3-2, respectively.
Igor Shesterkin has been a brick wall for the blueshirts all season as he leads NHL goaltenders in save percentage (.933) and is 2nd in the league in goals against per game (2.14).
The offense will need to support Shesterkin on Thursday night if the Rangers expect to remain two points behind Carolina going into the weekend. It’ll be incumbent on the whole offense, and specifically forwards Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin to disrupt the Pittsburgh defense and put consistent shots on goal.
In the home stretch of the regular season, New York finds themselves in a position to steal the division away for themselves and head into the playoffs as champions of the Metropolitan.
Adam Fox has been one of the best defenders in the league yet again and is a huge reason why the Rangers have been able to win as many games at this point in the season as they have.
The Rangers will play the Hurricanes twice more but other than that and their matchup with Pittsburgh, this team has a very manageable schedule down the stretch. It’s going to be a matter of keeping up the consistent play and finishing the season strong for New York.
They’ve dropped some winnable games here and there, but the Rangers have generally been a force in the Eastern Conference this season. The playoffs are all but certain for New York and this team has the potential to make a big run with their young, talented core.
There’s no time like the present and the Rangers have shown their ability to beat the top teams, so there is no reason not to consider this team as a contender for Lord Stanley’s cup.
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