With this season hitting the halfway point, are the Rangers a playoff team?
The Rangers are about halfway through their season, having played 44 games after a 5-2 loss to St. Louis, the defending cup champions. And with the NHL trade deadline of Feb. 24th fast approaching, the team has some decisions to make. Davidson has made clear that the organization doesn’t have a firm position on buying vs. selling at the deadline right now since he doesn’t see the team as definitively in or out of the playoffs hunt right now.
Currently, the Rangers only sit seven points outside of a playoff spot, so numerically it’s not an impossibility.
But, are the Rangers really a playoff-ready team?
The NYR offense has had its ups and downs but has held to a mostly solid level this season. Panarin is a great addition to the offense and has been having a fantastic season for the Rangers, boosting the play of everyone around him. The Rangers do struggle to maintain possession of the puck in the offensive zone and create sustained pressure at times. However, despite this issue, they have a GF/GP (goals for per games played) of 3.32, the 9th best in the league. Right now, the team’s offense is sporadic but dangerous.
The defense is another story. It’s had its successes with emergent players like Fox and DeAngelo, but overall the blue line is still very much a work in progress. Currently, the Rangers have the second-worst SA/GP in the league with an average of 34.8 shots against per game. The Rangers have been outshot in the vast majority of their games this season, and the defense is prone to bad lapses or turnovers that give other teams good scoring opportunities.
The Rangers’ special teams are also struggling to get the job done. Their powerplay is solidly middle of the pack—14th in the league—with a PP% of 20.0 though it doesn’t feel that way at times. Often the rangers struggle to get set up and don’t get that many shots off on a powerplay, which means they fail to capitalize on a lot of potential chances, such as the double minor in St. Louis. Their PK—ranked 2oth in the league—isn’t any better, with a PK% of 79.01.
On the bright side, the Rangers’ netminding has been pretty consistently good this season as well as a major factor in keeping the team in the running for the playoffs. Right now, the NYR have three goalies on the roster, all of whom have been playing well. Despite the defense increasing their workload, both Lundqvist and Georgiev have save percentages of .907 and .909 —virtually identical to the league average of .908. Additionally, Shestyorkin won his first two games as a Ranger and faced a lot of shots against New Jersey even if some of them were soft.
Though it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Rangers make the playoffs, they probably aren’t ready for a deep run right now. Additionally, making the playoffs would put the Rangers out of the draft lottery, and they could probably use another good pick more than a shallow playoff run since the 2020 draft is supposed to be reasonably deep.
Unless something changes dramatically for the Rangers in the near future, they should probably expect to be sellers come the end of February.
Featured Image: Billy Hurst/Globe Gazette