We have reached the stretch: There are 19 games remaining for the New York Rangers, and everyone will be vital. New York sits third in the Metropolitan Division with 79 points, and the team does not play until Thursday this week when they take on the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden.
The extra rest should also give the Rangers time to gel, as there are new acquisitions in the roster, including Patrick Kane, that is still trying to find their footing. The team should look newer come Thursday after some extra days of practice.
There’s no doubt that every game will matter, whether it is for the standings, for individual players and their statistics, or even just for the team to get another game under the belt before the postseason. Here are five moments down the stretch that will show us what the revamped 2022-2023 New York Rangers are made of.
March 12, 16, and 18 games against the Pittsburgh Penguins
The Rangers are in third in the Metropolitan Division and the Penguins and Islanders are going back and forth for fourth place. These two teams are also currently in the two wildcard spots.
While the Rangers have played the Islanders three times this season and do not play them again, New York sees Pittsburgh three times in a week, including back-to-back games at Madison Square Garden.
These three games will be vital for the Rangers. It can be as much as a 12-point swing, with every game being four. Each win or loss will go a long way.
If the Rangers are able to win two or three against the Penguins, it will essentially put a Metropolitan playoff spot out of reach for Pittsburgh and cement the Rangers’ postseason appearance. But, if New York does not perform in these crucial games, the season will be in jeopardy.
A home and home against the Carolina Hurricanes
As of right now, the Hurricanes are the team to beat in the Metropolitan Division. Similar to last year, the Hurricanes are at the top of the division come stretch time.
Every NHL fan knows how good Carolina is, and the Rangers are 2-0 against them this season. With that being said, both teams will have a lot to play for during the home and home on March 21 and 23.
The Rangers and Hurricanes matched up in the second round of the playoffs last year, and there is a strong chance it happens again this year. How New York plays against a strong Carolina team will show a lot of fans what they are made of.
A March 30 tilt versus the Devils
The Hudson River Rivalry will happen one more time this season. But, it very well might be a preview of a first-round playoff matchup.
For the past few weeks, the Devils have been in second place in the Metro while the Rangers have been in third, and many have forecasted that this will be the first-round matchup. But, the Devils have been surging and are knocking on the door for first place. Regardless, this game should be entertaining. Additionally, both teams made big trade deadline acquisitions, with the Rangers getting Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko and the Devils traded for Timo Meier. There’s no doubt both teams got better.
The Rangers are 1-1-1 against the Devils this season, with the win coming in overtime at Madison Square Garden thanks to Filip Chytil’s goal, and in the most recent game, the Rangers blew a 3-1 lead in the third and lost in overtime. This game is a chance for revenge at the Prudential Center, with new stars in the fold.
Three games against the Sabres
The Sabres are one of the more intriguing teams left on the schedule, as they are in the thick of it for a wildcard spot and are headlined by Tage Thompson, who has quietly become one of the best players in the NHL.
New York has not matched up against Buffalo yet this season, but when they did last year, all games were entertaining. Both teams have the capacity to score at will if all is clicking, and both should have a lot to play for.
Thursday vs Montreal
The Rangers have to take it one game at a time, and Thursday night will show if the team put their practice to good use. Montreal is one of the bottom-feeders in the league, and it gives the Rangers a good chance to rebound after a two-game losing streak. Hopefully, Patrick Kane can get on the board as well.
A few things to look at against Montreal: the power play and where players line up, whether Gerard Gallant changes lines, and the return of K’Andre Miller and maybe Ryan Lindgren.
Some can argue a new season starts Thursday. Only time will tell.