A while back I wrote a piece on why I thought the Atlantic division was the toughest in the league, with some numbers to back me up. After watching some Ranger classics last night on MSG, I started thinking about this season and how wide open the Atlantic and the Eastern Conference should be once again. And after witnessing what the Bruins pulled out of their hat all season along with the Devils surging while he-who-will-not-be-named was out awhile; the top ten in the Eastern Conference should be an absolute slugfest come March and April, not to mention the Atlantic Division marathon that will take place starting October 1st.
From my view, the Rangers had another overhaul of an offseason, the Devils are essentially the same with arguably a better coach, the Penguins will be top five again, the Flyers may have goalie issues but are solid in their own end, and the Islanders will be the same annoying little brother plus John Tavares. Overall, I do think that the Rangers can challenge for the division, but it's going to take a season-long consistent performance unlike last season along with scoring from some currently under the radar players. Therefore, I see the Rangers landing anywhere from the six to eight spot in the East, but at the same time still lurking around in the division.
So what's it going to take to win the division this season? Well, let's start with one of my fancy charts (the first of many this season, I'm a numbers guy) to find out where to put the bar.
If the Rangers are to win the division comfortably, they'll have to reach the magic number that is 104 points. Plausible? Absolutely. Probable? Not likely. To reach 104 points requires a team to average 1.3 points in the standings per game. Or, if the Rangers suddenly lose their touch to win shootouts, it's going to require 52 wins. The Bruins, who seemed unstoppable from October to March, won 53 games last year. Hank better start eating two bowls of Wheaties a day if we are to expect that.
The Rangers have averaged 96.5 points in the four seasons since the lockout along with averaging 42.75 wins per season. In any other division this most likely means a second place finish, but last year the Rangers finished fourth and even when they met the 100-point mark back in 05-06 they still only finished third. For the Rangers to have a shot at winning the division this season, I'm setting the bar at 102 points. If you look back at the chart, the numbers would tell you that the division winner should be a little low in points. Along with the 42.75 wins per season, the Rangers have averaged 28.25 losses and 11 Overtime/Shootout losses per season. With all that said, an Ideal record to accomplish the 102 points would be 45 wins, 25 losses, and 12 overtime/shootout losses. They key is obviously limiting the losses, but hopefully for this deep Rangers squad they can control the pace to most of their games and end up on the winning end more times than not.