For many, it is a shock that the New York Rangers are still in first place in the Eastern Conference. Despite the Rangers recent struggles and the late surge of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers sit atop the conference, division and the entire NHL with 103 points.
This group of individuals has shown to be very resilient for a majority of the season. There have only been two times this entire season in which the Rangers lost three games in a row. When the Rangers lose a game, they often respond the next time with authority. After being outplayed in the third period by the Buffalo Sabres, the Rangers rallied to win 4-3 in the shootout against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That continued against the Minnesota Wild as the Rangers won their 48th game of the year by a score of 3-2.
The Rangers now have a three point lead with six games remaining. The Blueshirts will head to Winnipeg to take on the Jets on Wednesday night. The remaining games include a rendezvous with the Montreal Canadiens at MSG, a contest with the Philadelphia Flyers on Broad Street, a date with defending champ Boston Bruins, a bitter divisional showdown with the Penguins and a season finale with the Washington Capitals.
In the six games remaining there is no reason the Rangers can’t win all of them or five out of six at the very least. The Rangers resilience and hard-nosed attitude coupled with Pittsburgh’s inability to capitalize on the Rangers short comings is what has allowed the Blueshirts to keep retaining their first seed status.
The battle for the number one seed has been a heavyweight bout set for 15 rounds. Both teams are now in the tenth round and neither fighter is willing to give up. Each team is still throwing jabs but only the Rangers have been connecting. With an apparent injury to Marc-Andre Fluery, the Rangers could extend their lead to five points with five games to play.
Brad Richards and Marían Gáborík better known as “Gabo-Rich” are continuing to click and Richards is second in the NHL for points in the month of March. Richards has scored six goals and assisted on 11 others for 17 total points. Gáborík has scored eight goals and has assisted on seven others for 15 total points. That number is good enough for fourth overall in the month of March.
When you take the Rangers resiliency as of late, the surging play of “Gabo-Rich” and the fact that Henrik Lundqvist is getting back on his game, it is going to be tough to unseat the Rangers from the No.1 seed overall.
Tom Urtz is a New York Rangers Columnist.
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