Breaking Down New York Rangers' Playoff Chances Midway Through 2013-14 Season
Halfway through the season, the New York Rangers are at a crossroads. For the majority of the season they have been a mediocre hockey team, but they found a way to close out 2013 with two wins. Now that 2014 is here, how likely are the Blueshirts to make the playoffs?
There are certainly a lot of variables to consider, and it really could go either way for the Rangers at this point.
Where They Currently Stand
• Games Played: 41
• Record: 20-19-2
• Points: 42
• Divisional Ranking: Fifth place
State of Affairs: Lucky enough for the Rangers, the Metropolitan Division has been a joke outside of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Although they currently sit fifth in the division, they sit three points out of second place and two points out of a tie for third place.
Verdict: At this point it appears the Penguins will run away with the division, so the Blueshirts will have to work hard to fend off the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and the trailing Carolina Hurricanes.
• Mats Zuccarello (9-19-28)
• Brad Richards (9-18-27)
• Derek Stepan (7-18-25)
• Ryan McDonagh (6-17-23)
• Chris Kreider (10-12-22)
State of Affairs: This year the Rangers have the league's fourth-worst offense, as they have only averaged 2.27 goals per game. This is a very surprising statistic when you consider that Alain Vigneault was at the helm during some of the Vancouver Canucks' best offensive seasons.
Verdict: The Blueshirts have been unable to find consistency, and if the offense doesn't improve they could struggle to make the playoffs and survive should they qualify.
• Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.63, 14th overall in NHL
• Penalty-Kill Efficiency: 85 percent, fourth best in NHL
State of Affairs: This season the Blueshirts have been average when it comes to preventing goals scored. For the past few years the Rangers were amongst the top 10 when it came to goals allowed per game, but this year they are in the middle of the pack.
This has been the case because the blue line has not been as stellar as usual. Ryan McDonagh has played like an all-star, Anton Stralman has exceeded expectations and everyone else has been average or mediocre.
Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto and John Moore have shown signs of regression, and Marc Staal's injuries have prevented him from showing some consistency.
Verdict: All in all the blue line has been average, but it will need to be much better if the Rangers want to make the playoffs.
Henrik Lundqvist: 30 games played, 12-15-2, 2.70 GAA and .908 save percentage
Cam Talbot: 13 games played, 8-3-0, 1.72 GAA and .936 save percentage
State of Affairs: This season Lundqvist has been mediocre most nights, and Talbot has been lights out. Martin Biron's demotion to the AHL and surprise retirement thrust Talbot onto the Rangers' roster, and he hasn't looked back since.
He has been a steady force for the Rangers, and he made multiple starts in a row twice this season. This led to the speculation that a goalie controversy was underway, but Lundqvist's return to the crease dispelled the rumors.
Verdict: Thus far Talbot has played like a Vezina winner, and Lundqvist has played like a backup. Barring a major injury, Lundqvist will be the guy for the Rangers during any potential playoff games. Therefore, the Rangers' franchise player needs to be a lot better going forward, or they won't stand a chance during the playoffs.
So...Do They Make the Playoffs?
Final Verdict: Rangers Finish Third in Metropolitan Division
The Blueshirts currently are a mere three points out of a playoff spot. They have had their fair share of injuries thus far, and they have had inconsistent play from top players through the first half of the season.
The Rangers have started to make some changes to their roster via demotion and promotion and are currently involved in trade speculation with a number of teams. It appears that general manager Glen Sather is willing to make trades that will allow Vigneault play the style of hockey he wants to, and that will help the Rangers make the playoffs.
There is reason to believe that the Blueshirts will be better in the second half, because history suggests that Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist will bounce back. The improvement in play from these two players will help tremendously, because secondary players have been carrying the Rangers for most of the 2013-14 season to date, and it hasn't quite been enough.