NEW YORK RANGERS
The Rangers have been hot and cold all year and since the All-Star break they’ve been exceptionally abysmal. After a home win to the Canes, the Blueshirts have reeled off five straight losses until last night's win, while being outscored 22-5 during those five losses.
However, as bad as a 10-2 thumping must feel, anybody with some semblance of self-respect is going to want to respond and get things back on the right track after an embarrassment like that. While they followed that game up with a 3-0 loss to the Devils, New York was certainly in the game and seemed to have some energy.
Last night they finally got off the snide, giving Washington all they could handle and came out on top 5-4 in a shoot-out.
Originally I was looking shorter term for the Rangers to be a play-on team for the next week of so, however looking over their schedule for the rest of February leads me to believe they have a good chance to make their backers some money for the rest of the month.
Firstly, the Rangers next game at Florida on Friday looks like it could shape up quite nice for them. The Rangers have too much talent to keep their losing ways going much longer and the Panthers could be just the tonic. Florida will be coming off a divisional game the night before in Carolina and it will also be their third game in four nights.
At first glance the Panthers may look to have things going in the right direction since the All-Star break going 6-2. However besides a 3-2 win over Philly and just now tonight over Carolina, the other four wins came over a struggling Habs squad, one over the Islanders and two over the titanic of a franchise which is the Toronto Maple Leafs.
One of their losses also came at the hands of the Isles, marking the Panthers inconsistency to continually beat other bad teams.
Back to the Rangers, after the aforementioned Florida game, they host the Flyers, travel to St. Louis, host the Isles, and travel to Buffalo two Saturdays from now. If you look a bit farther down the road, to close out the month, they have a home-and-home with the Leafs, and then host the Panthers and Avs to close out the month of February. It can be argued that the only quality opponent they’ll face over this time is Philadelphia.
I look for the Rangers to be a strong Play-On team for me for the rest of month and should definitely post a winning a record throughout that time.
NHL FADE OF THE WEEK
I was having a tough time finding a suitor for this section until I started analyzing the Rangers for my Play-On section. As previously mentioned, I feel the Rangers will be in a good spot come Friday night against the Panthers.
Not that consistently backing poor teams is ever a good strategy, but to go back to Florida, that game Friday may be where the wheels start to come off this month. I actually liked the Canes tonight over Florida, however, they turned up a huge egg losing 5-0.
However like I said most of Florida’s recent wins haven’t been that impressive. Dramatic maybe, but having to claw themselves back into two games against Toronto, in which they found themselves in a big hole early doesn’t instill too much confidence.
After the New York game, this is where things could start to get real ugly for the Cats. I find it hard to believe any team will face a tougher second half of February, as Florida will meet opponents with a combined 242-102-13-25 record (at the time of this writing).
This will include a game against the Southeast leading Caps, two each vs fellow East division leaders New Jersey and Boston, a game vs Chicago, and another with the Rangers again. In fact, March doesn’t look much brighter with a trip to Washington on the first of the month.
Florida has certainly been cashing a lot of tickets since the break, but it says here the gravy train is over and reality will set back in quite soon. I strongly recommend fading the Panthers for the time being.