Two games in the NHL tonight, but none involving the New York Rangers. Three lottery teams did play with minimal effect on the Rangers lottery hopes, but one game did stick the knife a little deeper into their playoff dreams.
Pittsburgh was the only playoff team in action and they beat Edmonton, giving them 67 points and a three point cushion over the Carolina Hurricanes. It also puts them 11 points ahead of the New York Rangers.
How bad is it? “The Athletic” website puts the Rangers odds of making the playoffs at a depressing 0.3%. In fact, they are predicting an 80 point season that will put the Rangers sixth from the bottom of the NHL standings. Good for the lottery, bad for the playoffs.
Let’s spell out how impossible this is. The Penguins have a record of 30-20-7. If they finish the season one game above .500 (unlikely) , they will finish with 93 points. That’s a record of 13-12 over their last 25 games.
For the New York Rangers to finish with 94 points, one point more than the Pens, they would have to go 19-7 over their last 26 remaining games. And even then, both the Carolina Hurricanes and the Buffalo Sabres, just points behind the Penguins, would have to do almost as poorly as Pittsburgh.
Food for thought. If the Rangers were in the Western Conference, they would be three points out of the wild card with a game in hand. What a difference a conference makes.
So folks, the playoffs are not impossible, but at 0.3% it is very, very, very improbably. And that means that the Lottery Look takes on even more importance.
The Lottery Look
As mentioned , the Penguins beat the Oilers 4-1. That means that Edmonton remains at 53 points, only three behind the Rangers.
In the other game, the Anaheim Ducks actually won a game, beating the Vancouver Canucks. It’s only their third win in 22 games, but they are still only six points out of the wild card. With 53 points, they are three points worse than the Rangers. The Canucks remain one point ahead of New York.
The standings (Worst is first)
Teams GP W-L-OTL PTS ROW
1. Ottawa 56 21-30-5 47 21
2. New Jersey 56 21-27-8 50 20
3. Detroit 57 22-28-7 51 20
4. Los Angeles 56 23-28-5 51 21
5. Anaheim 57 22-26-9 53 19
6. Edmonton 56 24-27-5 53 21
7. Florida 55 23-24-8 54 21
8. Chicago 57 23-25-9 55 22
9. Colorado 56 22-23-11 55 22
10. Arizona 56 25-26-5 55 23
11. Rangers 56 24-24-8 56 18
12. Vancouver 58 25-26-7 57 23
13. Philadelphia 57 26-24-7 59 24
14. Buffalo 56 28-21-7 63 24
15. Carolina 57 29-22-6 64 28
Who to root for
Thursday will be a very busy night, but the Rangers have the day off. Therefore, there can be some movement in the lottery standings. Nine lottery teams are playing and by the end of the night, the Blueshirts could fall from from 11th to 7th worst.
Blues @ Coyotes – Fresh off an impressive win over the Golden Knights, Arizona takes on the hottest team in the NHL, the St. Louis Blues. St. Louis has won eight of their last ten and are only two points behind Dallas for third place in the Central Division. Root for the Coyotes to keep their two game winning streak going.
Avalanche @ Jets – Colorado is one point behind the Rangers, but they are taking on one of the best in the NHL. The Avs have won only one in their last ten games so a win is doubtful. Overtime please?
Devils @ Blackhawks – Chicago is one point behind New York, the Devils are six points behind. If we believe that the Devils have a shot at passing the Rangers, we should hope for an overtime victory for New Jersey. At the same time, an overtime Chicago win wouldn’t hurt.
Flames @ Panthers – Calgary has hit a bump in the road with three losses in a row. Florida has been losing as well so this game is a toss up. If the Panthers win, they will have the same numebr of points as the Rangers and move ahead on the ROW tiebreaker. Go Florida!
Canucks @ Kings – Vancouver is two points out of the wild card, and only one point ahead of the Rangers. The Kings are five points behind the Rangers so a Los Angeles win is more important for the Rangers’ lottery hopes. Root for L.A. in overtime.
Senators @ Red Wings – Both of these teams are in the lottery race and behind the Rangers in the standings. Detroit is closer to New York (five points) while Ottawa is nine points worse. This is a pick’em, but hope for overtime.
The Rangers are back in action on Friday, visiting Buffalo. There will be three other games worth watching.