Rangers must take advantage of Sidney Crosby injury

Brady Skjei, New York Rangers. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Brady Skjei, New York Rangers. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby will miss the next six weeks due to injury. The New York Rangers have an opportunity to make an early run at a playoff spot.

There is a sliver of light coming from behind the door to the NHL postseason. Pittsburgh Penguins All-Everything center Sidney Crosby will be out of action through at least Christmas. The 32-year old underwent surgery to repair his core muscles, estimated recovery time is a minimum of six weeks (one quarter of the season). This is an opportunity for a very young New York Rangers  team to take advantage of and stake their claim to the postseason.

As Metropolitan Division stands now, Washington (32 points) and NYI (27 points) have two of the three best records in the league and are both undefeated in their last 10 games. Baring anything major, they should lock down first and second place at the end of this season. That leaves one guaranteed division spot.

Philly is currently in third with 23 points (18 games). They are followed by Pittsburgh, 22 points (18), Carolina 21 points (18) and the Rangers 18 points (16). For purposes of this article, a Wild-Card slot is off the table for now. Not because it can’t happen, but a third place finish in the Metropolitan Division is a guarantee and it takes the teams from a very competitive Atlantic Division out of the picture.

Crosby’s injury and recovery will put a huge dent in the Pens hopes for a top three finish. Even after he returns it will take a little while for Sid to get back into full hockey shape. Evgeni Malkin has carried the team for stretches in the past, but Pittsburgh also had Marc-André Fleury in net then. Current goalie Matt Murray goes through long periods of inconsistency. They can’t rely on him the way they did MAF. The Penguins will fall in the standings with 21 games on the schedule through the end of 2019.

Pittsburgh’s impending drop makes it a three team race for third. The New York Rangers play 23 more games in 2019. Philadelpha and Carolina each have 22. So the Blueshirts have a game in hand over the competition.

Right now the Flyers have the most momentum. They are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and have gotten at least one point in seven straight. New York is also 6-2-2 over their previous 10 games and have taken at least a point in six of their last seven. The lone miss was their shocking 6-2 home loss to Ottawa on November 4.

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Carolina only has nine points in their last 10. That includes back-to-back losses to the Rangers and Flyers last week, the only times any of the three contenders have played each other this season.

Now is the time for the New York Rangers to strike. As mentioned, they are playing very well as of late. Artemi Panarin is on fire with four goals and nine assists in the past nine games. After a rough start to the season, goalie Henrik Lundqvist has settled in. He is 3-0-1 in his last five games with a .923 save percentage and 2.95 goals against average.

Unfortunately, the King has faced too much rubber this year. Only once in 10 games has he seen fewer than 30 shots. In three of the them, the opponents fired 43 or more pucks on the net. The Blueshirts have let up almost 36 shots per game, second-most in the NHL this year. If they can tighten up their back-end without sacrificing too much offense, New York can make the necessary run up the standings.

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The New York Rangers host Carolina on November 27 and December 27. They play at Philadelphia on December 23. Philly is at Carolina on November 22.