Rangers can gain ground in Lottery race with loss at Toronto

I don’t advocate tanking. I’m glad the Rangers aren’t under coach David Quinn. They continue to play hard, but haven’t been winning games. Since the trade deadline, they have one victory. I’ve lost track of what the exact total is. I think it’s four losses in extras as well. Plus the five or six defeats in regulation. I could easily look it up, but what’s the point?

The bottom line is entering tonight’s match at Toronto, there are nine games remaining in the season. Game 74 features the Hartford Wolfpack versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. A low scoring team that struggles on the power play and on defense versus a high scoring juggernaut whose defense is in shambles.

If you want to look at the gaudy Toronto stats, be my guest. All I do know is John Tavares has 41 goals and over 80 points while Mitch Marner is closing in on 90 points. Morgan Rielly is a beast who could wind up with 20 goals and 80 points from the back end. Auston Matthews is only a few goals away from 40 despite missing time due to another injury. Nazem Kadri is an after thought. Frederik Andersen basically must stand on his head.

The Rangers have Mika Zibanejad with 68 points and 28 markers. Both team bests. After that, Chris Kreider, who isn’t playing, remains on 26 goals and has yet to crack the 50-point mark due to the hamstring injury he’s played through. After that, it’s Jimmy Vesey, who I think has gone eight or nine straight without a point. Pavel Buchnevich has been their best scoring forward with five goals over the past nine. He needs three for 20. A nice accomplishment if he can get it. Especially given the month he missed and struggles before adjusting under Quinn.

Tony DeAngelo leads the blueline with 26 points on mostly assists. A guy who was healthy scratched a lot due to a variety of reasons due mostly to off ice issues that will not be tolerated. It’s up to him. He’s got the talent. It’s all about maturity for the former first round pick of the Lightning, who didn’t last long in Arizona before coming over in the blockbuster that saw the Blueshirts say goodbye to playoff hero Derek Stepan and popular backup Antti Raanta. A trade that also netted Lias Andersson with the number seven overall pick in 2017. A young player who needs more ice time in these final nine to get a feel for what he can do.

It’ll be Alexandar Georgiev getting the start in net. The same rookie who had 55 saves on his birthday versus these Leafs at MSG. Four off Mike Richter’s mark of 59 for regulation.

So, what’s the focus? Continuing to see what Filip Chytil, Andersson and Brett Howden can do at center ice behind Zibanejad. Taking a look at deserving Hartford standouts Vinni Lettieri and John Gilmour. Evaluating what’s left with Kreider out and Jesper Fast likely done for the remainder of the schedule.

As for where the team is in the standings, they remain at 69 points with only 22 ROW. The lowest in the league. With the Devils prevailing over Arizona in a shootout, they are up to 65 points with a few more regulation and overtime wins. So, while it looks like the woeful Senators, Kings and Red Wings will all finish behind the Rangers, it’s possible for the Devils to pass them. However, they have played 76 games. So, it’ll still take a lot for the Rangers to wind up 27th with the fourth worst record.

They will continue to play honestly under the no nonsense Quinn. It’s just a question of how many of these games can they actually win? I jokingly said they might not win the rest of the year due to the lineup. Given how futile the offense is and the power play, who knows.

We’ll see how they fare in enemy territory tonight against a putrid defensive playoff contender.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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