A tough make or break schedule in February

new york rangers

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 20: The New York Rangers salute the crowd after defeating the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on November 20, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Rangers have their busiest month of the season in February as they play 15 games in 28 days.   It won’t take long to find out if this team will remain in the playoff hunt or if it will be time to start thinking about the Entry Draft lottery.

The New York Rangers played only 10 games in January, including just four games in the last 18 days of the month.  They will pay the price for that light schedule with a jampacked slate of games in February.

The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, February 24 and that is the most significant date of the month.  To be honest, there’s little chance that the Rangers won’t be sellers by the 3pm deadline.  It’s what they do in the three weeks leading up to the deadline that will be interesting.

The Rangers played 15 games in the month of November, but in two more days.  February’s 15 games in 28 days is a pretty compressed schedule with 12 of the 15 games against teams fighting for a playoff spot.  Not only that, but nine of the 15 games will be on the road with eight of the final ten games away from New York.

The have three sets of back-to-back games as well so the three Ranger goalies (barring a trade) will be kept busy.

The good news is the Rangers have a record of 13-7-1 against the teams they are playing this month.

Who they play

Nine of the 15 games will be against Eastern Conference teams so that means plenty of the proverbial four point games.  After a soft opening game on the road against Detroit,  the Blueshirts have a four game homestand with three games against teams desperate for points.  Dallas and Toronto are in solid contention while Buffalo is in danger of dropping out of the race.

Their February 7th match up will be must win for both the Rangers and the Sabres.  Then there is a brief respite as they host the last place Los Angeles Kings before hitting the road for most of the remainder of the month.

Three road games in Winnipeg, Minnesota and Columbus are all against teams in the thick of the playoff battle.  It doesn’t get any easier with the next game a matinee at home against Boston.

By that time there will be only three games left before the trade deadline.  The Blueshirts visit Chicago and Carolina with the last pre-deadline game at home on Saturday, February 22 against the disappointing San Jose Sharks.  Any Ranger players  who are going to be dealt will probably sit out that Sharks game.

After the deadline there are three very tough Eastern Conference match-ups, all on the road against the Islanders, Montreal and Philadelphia.

Key games

The Sunday matinee at Madison Square Garden against Boston promises to be a good one. The Blueshirts are 0-1-1 so far this season against the Bruins.

On their first long road trip of the month both Jacob Trouba and Brendan Lemieux will play in Winnipeg for the first time as Rangers. It should be an emotional return for Trouba who spent six years with the Jets. You can be sure that Neal Pionk will be at his best for the hometown fans that night.

Two days later, the Rangers will face Mats Zuccarello for the first time in Minnesota.   Zuc made his first appearance against his old mates in November when he was held scoreless in a 3-2 Wild loss at the Garden.

The first game after the trade deadline is Tuesday, February 25 when the Rangers take on the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.   This will be a big game in the Ranger-Islander rivalry as the Blueshirts can clinch the season series with a win.

They end the month on the 28th with a trip to Philadelphia to face Alain Vigneault and Kevin Hayes.  It’s only the second time the two teams will have faced each other this season.

For playoff purposes, the Rangers will need to come out of the month with at least 20 out of a possible 30 points  Considering that ten teams they play have more points than they do, that will be a tall task.

Looking ahead

It doesn’t get any easier in March as the Blueshirts play 15 games in 30 days.  Will they matter in a race towards the playoffs?  The 15 games in February will tell us.

February schedule

Sat, Feb 1   @ Detroit  7:00 PM
Mon, Feb 3 vs Dallas 7:00 PM
Wed, Feb 5 vs Toronto 7:30 PM
Fri, Feb 7  vs Buffalo  7:00 PM
Sun, Feb 9  vs Los Angeles  6:00 PM
Tue, Feb 11  @ Winnipeg  8:00 PM
Thu, Feb 13  @ Minnesota  8:00 PM
Fri, Feb 14  @ Columbus  7:00 PM
Sun, Feb 16  vs Boston  3:30 PM
Wed, Feb 19  @ Chicago  8:00 PM
Fri, Feb 21  @ Carolina  7:00 PM
Sat, Feb 22  vs San Jose  7:00 PM
3:00 PM, Monday, Feb 24 – NHL Trade Deadline
Tue, Feb 25  @ New York  7:00 PM
Thu, Feb 27  @ Montreal  7:00 PM
Fri, Feb 28  @ Philadelphia 7:00 PM