Nice little bounce-back win in San Jose after losing to a very home-ice loving Anaheim club on Wednesday. The lineup for this week; Islanders, Canadiens, and then an NBC affair in Pittsburgh where no calls will go against the home team, ever. Off the cuff, anything less than two points against the Fishsticks will be disappointing, as the weekend will be a challenging but also telling one at that.
About a week and a half ago when I first ran the numbers, I stated that 89 points should get the Rangers into the 7 or 8 seed. With 76 points after 70 games, this yields the Blueshirts 1.09 points in the standings per game, good for 89.03 points over 82 games. Philly and Montreal were 7/8 last season, so why couldn't that be the Rangers playing for the Eastern Conference title this season? Either way, since March 3rd Tampa has lost the Southeast lead, while Carolina has slipped badly going 3-5-2 in their last 10 (while losing their last 4) allowing the Sabres to sneak into the 8th spot; for now. New Jersey will not... go... away... while the Leafs and Thrashers also defy the numbers by sticking around as well. Like last time, let's take a look at some underlying team metrics to see which teams really deserve to make the playoffs.
Since March 3rd, the Rangers are 3-2 with 17 GF and 11 GA. Here's some better news, despite the two losses; it seems as though the Rangers are playing better as their Shot Ratio (whose outshooting who) and Save % is up (a great trend for Hank going forward).
Note: Chart calculated on 3/13 by 3 PM EST - PDO+/- is change since March 3rd article.
First off, the Rangers for the most part do deserve to make the playoffs as the 7th seed. They've played well enough all year, and although they played above their heads in the first half of the season a bit, they've righted the ship since March 1st. Their PDO (combination of save and shooting %) is the best of all the teams battling for playoff spots outside of the top 3 at the moment, mostly due to the solid goaltending all season. For comparisons sake, Philadelphia's PDO as of this moment is 1013 (league average PDO is always 1000). While many of us were dreaming of a top 6 finish back in December, the 7 or 8 spot is truly where the Rangers belong.
If the season ended with the Standings as they were Sunday morning, I would say that for the most part the deserving teams got in for the East. One thing I now know from the chart above: do not bet on Tampa Bay succeeding far into the playoffs. They are indicative of a typical Southeast division team as of recent history - all offense and paltry goaltending. Their PDO is the lowest outside of New Jersey's; who just outshoot you enough to score one or two goals and then pray they can hold onto the lead. Montreal could be a team to watch as they have a solid SR to go with the stellar play of Carey Price, as I mentioned in the previous article. Finally, the calculations seem to indicate that the only reason Carolina and Toronto are even still alive is due to having lady-luck on their side in the shooting department.
So the bottom-line? If the Rangers continue their play as of the past week and a half all should be gravy when it comes to the playoffs in mid-April. With the SO Win over the Sharks, SportsClubStats has the Rangers playoff chances (as of Sunday afternoon writing) at just over 85%; aka 13 magical points one way or another to get to 89 (anything under a .500 record going forward and NYR will most likely be out). Not that this needs to be said, but it's going to be one hell of a ride until April 9th.