Is it too early to start looking at the Rangers playoff opponent

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 07: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 07, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images )
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 07: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 07, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images ) /
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NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – JANUARY 07: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 07, 2023, in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images )
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – JANUARY 07: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 07, 2023, in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images ) /

For the New York Rangers, we basically know where they are going to finish the season. Currently sitting third in the division, they are 9 points back of the New Jersey Devils and 13 points back of the Carolina Hurricanes who have played a game less. Those two organizations seem way out of reach for the Blueshirts right now. When you consider that the recent run of results the Blueshirts have been enduring too, makes it unlikely that they will catch the leaders here.

Alternatively, the Rangers are 5 points clear of the Islanders and have played 3 fewer games. They are 6 points clear of the Pittsburgh Penguins and have played 2 games more. Right now, we all know the Rangers are going to finish third in the Metropolitan in all likelihood. It would take either a monumental hot streak or a collapse of astronomical proportions in order to see the Blueshirts finish anywhere else.

If you are new to the NHL or aren’t completely familiar with the playoff format, the top teams in each division play the two wild cards. 2 and 3 play each other in each division, with the higher-seeded team having home-ice advantage in each series. So with the Rangers quite firmly locked into the third position in the Metropolitan, we know they will be on the road for games 1, 2, 5, and 7. The issue is, we don’t know where.

If you have done the quick math, the two teams ahead of the Rangers in the standings are separated by only four points, but the Hurricanes who lead the division have played fewer games than anybody. New York may end up playing both of them in the postseason, but as for round one, it is likely going to be one of those two. So, surely the Rangers would be best served just collecting themselves for the postseason and preparing to face their opponent.

Well, that would be the case if we knew who it was. Every time it looks like it’s solidified as the New Jersey Devils, the Rangers Husdon River rivals seem to get hot and force themselves back into the conversation, which then only forces the Hurricanes to push them away again. It makes it difficult for Gallant and the staff to guess who their opponent in the first round is going to be at this point in time.

There are not even many common characteristics between the two teams. Carolina’s built on its blueline and constant forecheck. They create problems by forcing you into mistakes. New Jersey’s offense is one of the deadliest in hockey. They can run up the score with all four lines. Carolina’s scoring is hot and cold. New Jersey’s defense has its issues. Carolina’s goalies have health issues, New Jersey’s are still unproven. You can’t prepare for both.

We could sit here and talk about which nightmare is nicer for the Rangers to play against in their current situation, but we have plenty of time for that. Right now, Moneypuck.com has the Devils as the Devils finishing 2nd in the division at almost 85%. It’s not ruling out their ability to win the division, but it certainly seems to think that it is an uphill task.

Question for Blue Line Station readers: Who do you want to see the Rangers take on in round one of the playoffs?