While the New York area debating whether their Rangers should sell at the trade deadline or not, the fact remains that the team could very well enter next week’s All-Star break in one of the Metropolitan Division’s top three playoff spots.
Granted, you’d never know that looking at the Rangers’ recent output, which suggests they should indeed sell at next month’s deadline. Since a thrilling Winter Classic victory at Citi Field on New Year’s Day, the Rangers are just 3-6-0 and have resembled Citi Field’s primary tenant with numerous injuries. Chris Kreider and Kevin Shattenkirk are out for the foreseeable future, taking away both speed and finesse from the lineup. A crucial Western road trip has been disastrous thus far, a weekend set against Colorado and Los Angeles going for naught. The latter was particularly tough, as the Rangers blew a 2-0 lead to the Kings by allowing three second period goals, all on the power play. It allowed the reeling the King to end a six game losing streak.
But how can the Rangers (24-19-5) sell when literally everything, except the games on their own end, is going in their favor?
Last night, for example, saw both of the Rangers’ local rivals drop disappointing decisions. The New Jersey Devils, whom the Rangers were just three points behind for second place in the Metro, dropped a 3-0 decision to the Detroit Red Wings, while the Arizona Coyotes did what the Blueshirts could…beat the New York Islanders, triumphing in a 3-2 overtime game. Tough times have befallen the Rangers’ other competition as well. Though the Flyers, whom the Rangers earned a dominating 5-1 win against last week, have reinserted themselves in the playoff conversation, the Blue Jackets, Penguins and Hurricanes have struggled to maintain consistency.
To that end, the Rangers have been unable to truly enjoy the struggles of their enemies because of their own failures. That must change tonight against the Anaheim Ducks, the first half of a California back-to-back (10:00 PM, MSG+).
Anaheim (22-17-9) is currently in the same boat as the Rangers, struggling to remain in their own conference’s playoff hunt, though they too are a stone’s throw away from their Pacific Division’s guaranteed playoff spots. Their quest to earn one took a hit against the Rangers’ next opponent, the San Jose Sharks, falling 6-2 on Sunday night.
The Rangers would do well to look to their last game against the Ducks for inspiration on Tuesday night; back on December 19, New York earned a 4-1 win, anchored by 39 saves by Henrik Lundqvist, who will make the start once again tonight. Paul Carey had two goals in the win.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490