For New York Rangers coach Gerard Gallant, the playoffs are the last thing he is thinking about. It’s one thing about the coach that has been consistent from the beginning of the season. His sole objective is to win games. For Gallant, playoff seeding is really irrelevant.
He explained, “Personally, I wanna win games and get points. I don’t really concern (myself) who you’re gonna play in the playoffs. If we’re fortunate to make the playoffs then you’re gonna play a good team. I wouldn’t know which team to pick right now. I can look at you and say this is a better match up? I can’t say that.”
When pressed about it, he asked the question of the reporters. “If you look at the eight teams, what team do you wanna play? Seriously.” He put an end to the discussion, saying “I wanna win the division. It’s a battle to do that. I don’t worry about the playoffs until you get there.”
Gallant has a point. The Rangers have four games left with Pittsburgh, three games left with Carolina and the Islanders and two games against the Capitals including tonight’s match. That over one third of the remaining schedule and we’ll learn a lot about the team when they are done.
It’s clear that the Coach will let the media and fans be the ones preoccupied about where the team will finish and who they will potentially face in the postseason. We’ll happily take on that responsibility
Dose the regular season matter?
Does the regular season record against a team really matter? In 2020, the Rangers totally dominated the Hurricanes, sweeping all four games only to be swept in the Stanley Cup Qualifier. In 2016-17 the Rangers couldn’t beat the Canadiens in three regular season games, but won their playoff series in six games.
Then again, the previous year they lost their season series to the Penguins 1-2-1 and lost their first round series to Pittsburgh in five games.
Consider this. In their magical run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, their combined record against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Montreal in the regular season was 5-4-2. They beat all thee of those teams in the playoffs with a record of 12-8.
Gallant’s philosophy is shared by his players. Adam Fox spoke about it and while he said that playing divisional opponents is more important, he said “I think personally, I just want to get in. That’s the most important thing. Once you’re in, there are a lot of good teams in this league and anything can really happen. You see teams that beat teams that finished higher than them in the regular season. ”
In reality, there’s no doubt that who you play in the playoffs is important and with the playoff teams pretty much set in the Eastern Conference, how the Rangers play against Metropolitan Division opponents will be worth noting. But the importance will be how well they are preparing for the playoffs, not a matter of individual games or statistics.
Since coming out of their extended break, the Rangers are 2-0-1, scoring all of five goals. But they’ve only allowed four and that’s how you win playoff games.
The good news is that the Rangers have played so well this season that they have little left to prove until the playoffs start. And once the playoffs start, they will need outstanding goaltending, a shutdown defense, excellence on special teams and their offensive leaders to step up. That’s a pretty simple recipe for success. They just have to do it.