New York Rangers Dominance in the Atlantic Division a Key to Success

Jon MillianContributor IJanuary 7, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 06:  Derek Stepan #21 and Marian Gaborik #10 of the New York Rangers celebrate after Stepan scored a third period goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the NHL game at Consol Energy Center on January 6, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Rangers defeated the Penguins 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, the New York Rangers moved their season point total to 56.

That puts them three points ahead of last year's two Stanley Cup finalists, the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins, for tops in the NHL (although Boston does have two games in hand on New York).

Many factors have contributed to the Blueshirts massive point accumulation thus far, but one the most important factors has been their utter domination of division rivals.

The Rangers are now 9-1 vs. the Atlantic Division this season which is the best divisional record in the league.

If you were asked, "What's the best way to get top playoff seeding?" Having a winning percentage of .900 within your division is a pretty good answer.

This record is even more impressive when you take a look at that one loss. It came against the Islanders (yes, the 28th-place New York Islanders) way back on October 15th, 2011. It was just the Rangers' third game of the season and their first game on American soil after playing their first two overseas in Stockholm.

After that 4-2 loss, they have gone on to beat the Isles three times, the Philadelphia Flyers three times (including their Winter Classic matchup earlier this week), the Pens twice and the New Jersey Devils once. That's nine-straight victories, garnering 18 of a possible 18 points during that stretch.

The Rangers aren't exactly beating up on a weak division either. With a combined 232 points and four teams seeded in the top eight in the Eastern Conference, the Atlantic is statistically the best division in the NHL.

In 2010-11, the Vancouver Canucks owned the best divisional record at 18-4-2 which helped get them 117 points on the season, the President's Trophy and an appearance in the finals. The Rangers are on a similar pace.

If New York continues to stomp through the Atlantic, winning close to 90 percent of their remaining 14 divisional games (two against the Isles, three against the Flyers, four against the Pens and Five against Devils), it'll be hard to pick against them when predicting this year's President's Trophy winner.