Tonight's matchup with the Bruins marks the New York Rangers' 12th game of the condensed 48-game schedule or, in other words, the quarter pole of the season. If the Blueshirts win their regular-season series finale in Boston, they'll be 7-5 and trending upwards.
After the panic of a 1-3 start, New York has corrected itself by winning five of the last seven games and head into a stretch of their schedule that could jumpstart the team on a run to climb up the Eastern Conference standings.
Following Boston, the Rangers conclude February by playing the Islanders twice, Canadiens twice, Capitals, Senators, Jets and the Lightning once more. The combined record for the teams is 30-33-6. This is the time for the Rangers to prove they are one of the elite teams in the NHL and go on a run against struggling teams and inferior opponents.
As we know, the Islanders always bring out their best against New York and the Canadiens' team speed historically gives the team fits, especially in Montreal a.k.a. Henrik Lundqvist's personal house of horrors. The Senators proved to be worthy adversaries in last season's playoffs and no team in the NHL should be taken lightly any given night.
However, if the Blueshirts play like they're capable, February could be the month that propels them into the spotlight as one of the East's best. And it may be necessary considering the Devils' hot start and early seven-point lead in the Atlantic Division. The Rangers can't afford to drop points while teams in their division keep winning.
It all starts with a win in Boston tonight: Get there and the team's record is 7-5. If New York finishes each quarter of the season 7-5, they'll end the season 28-20 with 56 points. Over an 82-game season, that translate into approximately 95-96 points. Using last season's standings, 95-96 points would clinch a seventh seed in the East.
It's a model to go by, a way to evaluate the team's progress. But is it ideal for a team tabbed as a Cup favorite?
As Los Angeles proved last season, it's not where you finish in the standings, it's a matter of getting hot and playing your game at the right time. For the Rangers, they've showed signs of getting back to their winning ways. After February concludes, we could be talking about New York at the top.
@KevinDeLury There is so much at stake tonight.... Decent position at the quarter mark, a favorable schedule coming up, and most importantly a chance to prove you are a contender for the cup. Any team can beat up on the easy teams and work their way in as 6 or 7 seed. Any team can get hot at the end of the season and make a run especially in shortened season. This is a statement game. The Rangers need to show us that they can beat an elite team on the road especially when they are healthy and playing well. I can't begin to explain how pumped I am for this game tonight.
@TheNYRBlog I ran the numbers and it doesn't look good for tonight. Boston is clicking. I want to be wrong...but I would be happy w a point.
Couldn't agree more James, after a brutal schedule to start the season, the Rangers are setup here to make a run.
Getting into the playoffs is obviously paramount. No team, I don't care who, is going to want to face Henrik Lundqvist in a 7 game series.
That being said, I think tonights game is an absolute MUST win. In regulation preferably, but we'll take the win. Can't continue to go back and forth at the .500 mark. Have to get off to a good start and establish the forecheck early. I'd say getting the first goal tonight would be extremely important, even more-so than usual.
Lets win tonight first then talk about the Islander's game on Thursday. Got to take them one at a time. Tough game tonight for sure.