Tag: Atlantic Division playoff race

Winnipeg Jets v New York Rangers

Rangers bump top seed lead to five points with win


When the Winnipeg Jets opened up a 2-0 lead in the second period after a scoreless opening frame, the fear was that the New York Rangers would fall asleep and open the door for the Pittsburgh Penguins to make up ground in their race. Winnipeg deserves credit for putting up an honest fight, but the Rangers eventually took over the game, winning 4-2 and expanding their Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference lead to a daunting five points.

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Sure, the Pittsburgh Penguins still have an April 5 date with the Rangers that could chip two points off of that lead and now have a game in hand, but New York is doing its part to lock up the No. 1 spot in the East.

The Rangers might also look further with their aims, as they tied the St. Louis Blues with 105 points and would actually grab the Presidents’ Trophy right now because of tiebreakers.

The perks are obvious – avoiding a Philadelphia Flyers team that must be taken seriously – but considering the danger presented by the possible eight seed Buffalo Sabres, the top spot is a little less desirable than usual in the East.

Still, the seeding is still a week and a half away from being determined, and a lot can change in that time. It just so happens that it’s looking less likely that the Rangers will move down in the standings – even if the Jets briefly threatened to make that far more plausible.

Tonight was great for Rangers and awful for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers

On paper, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers should have finished Tuesday night in the same place that they started it, aside from having one less game remaining on their schedules.

Instead, it was an awfully tough night for the Penguins and a great one for the Rangers. New York squeezed out a 3-2 win against a persistent but hopeless Minnesota Wild team while Pittsburgh dropped a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders.

Tough times for Pittsburgh

This gives the Rangers a three-point lead in the Atlantic Division (and thus, the first seed in the East), which honestly seems more like a four point gap when you consider the Blueshirts’ tiebreaker advantages.

If that wasn’t enough, Kukla’s Korner points out that Marc-Andre Fleury took an elbow to the head in the second period and Sidney Crosby might just face some heat from Brendan Shanahan for his ill-advised cross-check.

Saving grace

The Penguins aren’t totally out of the No. 1 seed sweepstakes, though. The key date is April 5 when the Penguins host the Rangers at Consol Energy Center. If Pittsburgh wins that game in regulation, it reduces the Rags’ lead to just a point (or essentially two because of tiebreaker advantages).

In a fitting way, the blow to Pittsburgh’s quest for the top seed isn’t all that different from Washington’s diminished opportunity to get the eighth seed. Both teams still have a shot, but now they’ll need to depend upon Buffalo/New York to lose for things to work out.

Here are highlights of the Rangers’ win:

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Check out video of the Islanders beating the Penguins:

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Rangers slip by Red Wings in overtime

Detroit Red Wings v New York Rangers

The Detroit Red Wings don’t come to Madison Square Garden very often, so it was a special game for the New York Rangers even if the Red Wings hobbled into the building. Ryan Callahan scored in overtime to give the Rangers a 2-1 OT win, bumping the team’s Atlantic Division lead to three points.

Check out that winner and the rest of the highlights below.

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The Rangers are now at 99 points, putting them three ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While Pittsburgh holds one more game in hand, New York has the benefit of holding tiebreaker advantages.

It’s an important win for the Blueshirts and while the Red Wings remain in playoff position, the banged-up bunch can’t be feeling great right now. Detroit is now on a six-game losing streak (0-4-2) and a disturbing 3-8-3 slump in their last 14 games.

The Red Wings might just drop to sixth place in the West soon, but considering the up-and-down Pacific Division, facing its winner might just be a blessing in disguise for the battered group.

Crosby, Malkin and Neal explode in Penguins win

James Neal

It was a milestone night for Evgeni Malkin, but ultimately, it was a showing of how powerful this Pittsburgh Penguins team can really be.

The Pens pounded the Winnipeg Jets 8-4 in Sidney Crosby’s first game back in Pittsburgh as part of his second comeback. Crosby racked up four assists – all through the first two periods, but only managed to be the third star of the game because his other teammates were so impressive.

James Neal got the second one with a hat trick, but Geno’s 200 (and 201) goal celebration earned a first star thanks to his ridiculous five-point output.

To review:

  • Malkin’s five-point night gives him 93 on the season, with 43 goals. His Art Ross lead over Steven Stamkos and Claude Giroux grew to nine points.
  • Neal is making that $5 million-per-year extension seem perfectly fair as he now has 35 goals and 72 points on the season.
  • Crosby now has nine points (all assists) in his four games back and has two goals and 21 points in 12 contests in 2011-12.

This win bumps the Penguins up to 96 points with a blistering 12-0-1 run. Here are the highlights of the game:

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With the Philadelphia Flyers dropping a 2-1 regulation loss to the Florida Panthers tonight, it looks like it’ll come down to the New York Rangers vs. Penguins for the Atlantic Division title – and the first seed in the East.

Here’s an updated view of that race:

Rangers: 97 points, 42 regulation/OT wins, 10 games left – five at home and on the road
Penguins: 96 points, 36 regulation/OT wins, 10 games left – six at home and four on the road

The Penguins host the Rangers in Pittsburgh on April 5, the penultimate game of their season. You’re not crazy for thinking that the Atlantic Division might be decided in that game.

Then again, with the way Pittsburgh is playing, the Rangers might be lucky to hold them off until then.

Rangers clinch playoff berth, but know their work isn’t done

New Jersey Devils v New York Rangers

The St. Louis Blues have done their best to try to shrug off becoming the NHL’s first team to clinch a playoff berth. The New York Rangers are far more justified in taking a blase attitude about being the East’s first, however, as they’re nowhere near as comfortable as the odds-on Central Division winners must be (deep down).

It makes sense, then, that the Rangers clinched their playoff spot with a tough 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils.

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If division titles didn’t determine seeding, the East’s top four teams would all come from the Atlantic. Excluding the Larry Brooks-abused New York Islanders, the Devils are the only team without a realistic chance to usurp the Rangers for the Atlantic:

(1) Rangers: 97 points, 10 games left, 45 wins (42 in regulation/OT)
(4): Pittsburgh: 94 points, 11 games left, 44 wins (35 in regulation/OT)
(5): Philadelphia: 92 points, 10 games left, 42 wins (39 in regulation/OT)
(6): New Jersey: 87 points, nine games left, 41 wins (30 in regulation/OT)

Yup, the Rangers’ win probably put the Devils’ already-slim Atlantic dreams to bed, but the Penguins remain a serious threat. Pittsburgh has a game in hand and one more contest against the Blueshirts, so John Tortorella & Co. can’t take it easy just because the postseason is now guaranteed.