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Rangers clinch playoff berth on off day, now focus on positioning/health

March 28, 2023, 11:58 AM ET [146 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers enter the last nine games of the season with a playoff position already locked up. Monday, with the Panthers loss to Ottawa and the Sabres loss to Buffalo, the Rangers clinched a playoff spot for the second straight season. What remains to be decided is positioning with this week likely playing a key part.



Lines:
Panarin-Zibanejad-Tarasenko
Kreider-Trocheck-Kane
Lafreniere-Chytil-Kakko
Vesey-Goodrow-Motte

Mikkola-Fox
Miller-Trouba
Harpur-Schneider

In practice yesterday, Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane returned to their normal lines after being shuffled last game. Coach Gerald Gallant and the team are still working optimal combinations, and with nine games left, hopefully the top-six gets settled in. With the top-12 set and no cap room- unless Ryan Lindgren lands on LTIR, which should be a strong consideration - this set of forwards will continue to be run out there for each contest.

The schedule is not a walk in the park. It will a mix of those on the outside looking in mixed with teams in the postseason. Two games versus Columbus, including tonight, plus a pair against Buffalo and one versus St. Louis, are interspersed with matches against NJ (Thursday), Washington, Tampa and Toronto. The latter two are barring a collapse by the Lightning are slated to meet in round one with the Maple Leafs in the two-seed, so it’s possible each team rests some of their top guns.

With the Devils loss to the Islanders last night, the Rangers sit four points behind New Jersey with a game in hand. If New York can defeat Columbus, they will head into the Rock with a chance to tie for second place. But in actuality, due to the tiebreaker, which is Regulations plus Overtime Wins they will still be behind. Carolina, thanks to some late game magic earning them a handful of points the last few weeks, are seven points up in New York with a game in hand. (Update, correction, first tiebreaker is regulation wins and second is ROW. If New York wins tonight and Thursday, they will have more regulation wins than New Jersey and be in second place with 35 RE compared to 34 for NJ).

The long regular season is now in the stretch run. Three weeks remain until the post season starts. While home ice advantage on the first round would be nice, more important is the team staying healthy. We know the playoffs is a battle of attrition. Heading into the postseason as healthy as possible could help play a large role in who advances. Second would be improvement in the power play, which might be 1B to health’s 1A. The man advantage has always been a huge weapon. Recently, that has far from been the case. To win in the playoffs, a potent power play is not necessarily a requirement but having one makes a vast difference and gives a team a significant edge. The talent is there, in the next two weeks, the goal has to be to find groupings that work well together and maximize each other’s strength.

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