Tomorrow, all 30 NHL teams will be in action to close out the season in one hectic twelve-hour period. And while the Rangers have already locked up the top spot in the Eastern Conference, a number of other games could impact them in one way or another. (The Rangers themselves even have something to play for tomorrow, as does their opponent.) Here, now, a guide to the games that matter to the Rangers.
Senators at Devils (3 p.m., MSG+). The Devils are locked into the sixth spot — meaning they’ll play whoever wins the weak Southeast Division — but the Senators haven’t yet locked up the No. 7 seed. If Florida earns a point tomorrow, and the Capitals beat the Rangers, a regulation loss would drop Ottawa to eighth, setting up a first-round matchup with the Rangers.
Flyers at Penguins (4 p.m., NBC Sports Network). Technically, this game doesn’t impact the Rangers — these teams are locked into the fourth (Pittsburgh) and fifth (Philadelphia) seeds — but if the higher seeds all win out in the first round, the winner of the series between these teams would face the Rangers in the second round. If nothing else, given the events of last weekend, this game should make for good television.
Capitals at Rangers (6:30, NBC Sports Network). The Rangers can clinch the Presidents’ Trophy — and guarantee themselves home ice throughout the postseason — with a win. Both the Rangers and Vancouver have 109 points. St. Louis — which also plays tonight — has 107. But the Rangers would win the tiebreaker against either team, so they control their Presidents’ Trophy destiny. Washington, meanwhile, has even more to play for: They can still win the Southeast Division (and secure the No. 3 seed) if they win tomorrow and Florida loses in regulation. They can also wind up with the No. 7 seed, in the scenario described above: Florida earns a point, the Caps win, and the Senators lose in regulation. Otherwise, if the Caps earn fewer than two points, they’re the No. 8 seed, and play the Rangers in the opening round. They’re also the No. 8 seed if both the Panthers and Senators earn at least a point, no matter what happens tomorrow against the Rangers.
Hurricanes at Panthers (7:30). Florida could have clinched the Southeast Division (and thus secured the No. 3 seed) with a point last night, but they lost in regulation to Washington. And so they could still wind up as the No. 8 seed: If they lose in regulation tomorrow and Washington wins, they’d be even with 92 points, and Washington would win the tiebreaker. But while Ottawa can also finish with 92 points as well if they lose in regulation tomorrow, Florida can’t take the No. 7 seed from them, because they’d lose the tiebreaker. So the Panthers — the only playoff team in the East that failed to win at least half its games — can finish with one of two seeds: third or eighth.
Blues at Stars (8 p.m.). This one might not matter at all to the Rangers: If the Blues (who currently have 107 points, to the Rangers’$2 109) lose tonight in regulation, they can’t finish ahead of the Rangers, since New York owns the tiebreaker. If they lose in overtime tonight, they’d be a point back of the Rangers heading into play tomorrow, and thus still alive for the Presidents’ Trophy. If they win tonight, three teams will enter play tomorrow tied with 109 points.
Oilers at Canucks (10 p.m.). The Rangers and Canucks are currently even with 109 points, and tomorrow’s Rangers game will be over by the time this one begins. Vancouver would need to earn more points than the Rangers tomorrow to finish ahead of New York, and to win the Presidents’ Trophy, they’d also need to finish the night with more points than the Blues, since they don’t own the tiebreaker against either. The Rangers, who lead the league with 47 regulation and overtime wins, own the tiebreaker against both Vancouver and St. Louis. The Blues own the tiebreaker against the Canucks.
Got all that? Great. (And if you that’s too much NHL hockey for one day, there’s always tomorrow night’s NCAA title game, featuring Rangers prospect Chris Kreider.)