While the New York Rangers can control their fate by winning the games they need to win to clinch a playoff spot with 10 contests left in their season, a lot of help can come from possibly their biggest rivals, the New York Islanders. With the Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils all chasing the Rangers for the final playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders can help out in a big way.
Including this afternoon’s game against the Blue Jackets, the Islanders face the three chasing teams a total of five times in their last 12 games. The Islanders’ season is essentially over even if they are not mathematically eliminated. They have the opportunity to play the spoiler yet again, while also allowing their young players to gain valuable NHL experience.
The Rangers do not face any of the Capitals, Blue Jackets or Devils for the rest of the season. New York did defeat both Columbus and New Jersey in their last two games, both in regulation, providing four huge points while not allowing the chasing teams to gain a single point via overtime. The Rangers must continue their current streak, having won four of their last five games. Their playoff push includes a trip to western Canada featuring games against the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and John Tortorella‘s Vancouver Canucks.
To finish off the season, only four teams in their final 10 games are playoff teams. The Rangers must take advantage of this and continue to put forth a consistent effort, including production from their top line including Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. Their west coast road trip will put a crucial six points on the line that the Rangers can use to clinch a playoff spot for themselves.
Help is never shunned away, however, and if the Islanders play like the rugged, gritty and energetic team that they are, then they can provide a huge help to the Rangers. They are without superstar John Tavares for the rest of the season while sniper Thomas Vanek only lasted 47 games on Long Island before being moved. The team is currently being led by Kyle Okposo, who is having a very impressive breakout season. The Rangers will rely upon Okposo, along with center Frans Nielson, to lead the young Islanders against their division rivals and deny those teams points on the Rangers’ road to the playoffs.