Home Sweet Home?
Not for the New York Rangers.
“What we have to do is try to solve the riddle,” Derek Stepan told reporters after the Rangers’ 3-2 loss to the Islanders at the Garden on Mar. 22. The loss was the Rangers seventh straight on home ice dating back to Feb. 21.
Overall, the Rangers are 19-16-3 on home ice, which ranks 22nd in the NHL.
“I don’t know what the answer is,” Stepan said. “I don’t understand why we can’t seem to get it done on home ice. It is certainly something that we need to fix but at this point there’s nothing we can do about the past seven games. We have to find the answer and get it done before the playoffs come around.”
When the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in the second week of April, the Rangers will be one of the 16 competing teams. That has been an accepted fact as the Rangers have been locked into the first Eastern Conference Wild Card berth for months.
Boston, the Islanders and Tampa Bay are engaged in a three-team race for the second Eastern Conference Wild Card.
As the first Eastern Conference Wild Card, the Rangers will play the Atlantic Division winner. As of this writing, Montreal leads the Atlantic by three points over Ottawa, and Toronto is in third.
Which may be a positive.
The Rangers have the league’s best road record at 27-9-1 following Saturday night’s 3-0 win over the Kings in Los Angeles. Should the Rangers meet Montreal or Ottawa in the first round, they would not have home ice advantage.
“We’re focused on playing good hockey, trying to win games, whether they’re at home or on the road,” McDonagh said after the loss to the Islanders. “We obviously haven’t found success here, so we’ve got to keep working. We only have a handful of games left, and we’ve got to make sure we focus on getting ourselves into the playoffs and getting the job done there.”
You can follow Metro New York NHL writer Denis P. Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman.