The Rangers look to firmly hold a playoff spot in the eastern conference. With a six-point buffer on the Lightning, who sit as the first team out, it would take an uncharacteristic collapse to leave them out of the picture. Even larger than the gap from New York to Tampa is the gaping space one spot ahead to the division leading Capitals. This means that the Rangers are most likely fighting for the second place spot in the division. Ultimately, with the unpredictability of the playoffs what’s most important is making it but a closer look reveals just how crucial home ice will be.
With a home record of 21-6-3 and a record of 11-13-3 when playing the role of visitor, there is a dichotomy in the Rangers records to differing be ignored. The hockey gods are fickle but when your home record is that much better than your away record, there is a concrete trend. This alone is enough to make the blueshirts fight a bit harder for seeding.
Just how crucial the advantage of playing in the Garden can be is only exacerbated when looking down the standings of the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders have a similar phenomenon, 19-8-3 at Barclays, 11-11-3 on the road. Pittsburgh is 16-8-4 when they are the home squad and when visiting other venues decreases to 12-11-4.
The only other likely opponent to open the playoffs are the Devils, who have similar records wherever they drop the puck. However, there is an explanation for how being at home against them could still be highly beneficial in more ways than one. Aside from the Rangers difference in record, it is well-known in the tri-state area that when the Rangers cross the Hudson River, their fans join them. In a series with either the Islander or Devils any advantage for the Rangers in Madison Square Garden would be doubled by having a large visiting team fan contingent when they go to Brooklyn or Newark.
Closing in on the 60-game mark, many teams are still focusing on the task of simply getting into the playoffs. The game of debating seeding and scenarios is still about a dozen games off. However, for the Rangers it may be smart to start having this in mind as a motivation to fight for the two-seed but also a reality that could help their chances of getting to the conference semifinals.
My name is Jason Bisnoff and I am a native New Yorker and currently work for the International New York Times. I have been published in the New York Daily News, Albany Times-Union, Metroland, The Nabe, Florence Magazine, 219 Magazine and previously did hockey writing for Hockey This Week.