Friday, April 8, 2011

Rangers Have Lost Control of Own Destiny From Inability To Beat Weaker Competition

The cliché that has surrounded the New York Rangers all season, based on missing the playoffs last year by a single point, has been that every point counts.  Those points in any or all of the first 81 games of the season count as much as those in the finale, but once again it will come down to the final game of the season to decide the Rangers playoff fate.  As the playoffs approach, if you are a team that is battling to get in, the one thing you can take comfort in is having some sense of control of your destiny.  Despite the charge the Carolina Hurricanes have been on, 7-1-1 in their last 9 games, going into last night against the Atlanta Thrashers the Rangers still had that card in their back pocket.  It is gone now.  Instead they must find a way to bounce back against the rival Devils and hope for other teams to aid them in their quest to make the playoffs this season.
If the Rangers fail to make the postseason it will be easy to point to last night’s game as the reason why and it would certainly be part of it, but it goes deeper than that.  Over the past three months the Rangers inability to defeat the teams they are supposed to has cost them an inordinate amount of points.  According to Andrew Gross, since January 20 the Rangers are now 5-7-1 against the non-playoff teams in the Eastern Conference.  That is 15 lost points in 13 games against teams that are not in a position to currently make the postseason.  You have to collect as many points as possible against those teams that are not going to make it and then play respectably against the better teams. 
In contrast, over that same stretch of the season the team is 9-5-1 against teams currently in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  Those numbers show that the Rangers can beat any and all teams they might play in the playoffs, but that their inability to maintain that level against the inferior competition may well cost them that chance. 
Here is a breakdown Buffalo, New York and Carolina over since January 20…

Overall Record
VS Non-Playoff Teams in East
VS Playoff Teams in East
New York

As you can see all three teams have been above .500 against the playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, but the place where the Rangers fall short against the competition is gaining the points they should against those teams that are not going to be playing next week.  When you gain only 42% of the possible points against non-playoff teams in your conference over the course of nearly three months, frankly you do not deserve to be in the playoffs yourself.  You can look at any one game and say that was the game in which the Rangers lost control of their destiny, but the reality is the Rangers lost it over the course of months not any one night because they could not consistently get the points playoff teams do against inferior competition.