There’s no question that the 15-12-3 Rangers are playing above expectations in the standings. The Blueshirts are currently five points off the second wild-card spot occupied by the rival Pittsburgh Penguins and are chasing alongside a trio of talented teams in the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Prior to Tuesday’s road meeting against the Los Angeles Kings, coach David Quinn spoke about the goal of making the playoffs. This isn’t new messaging from Quinn. He stated his playoff ambitions in the summer and during training camp.
While there’s nothing wrong with aiming high and building an atmosphere of belief, the Rangers are still a long way from being a legitimate playoff-challenging team. Real playoff teams wouldn’t have any trouble beating an inferior, cellar-dwelling Kings team that had entered Tuesday on a four-game losing skid.
That’s why uttering the word “playoffs” and speaking like playoff contention is a real thing can be dangerous for Quinn and the Rangers. Quinn and his staff can see the trends in real time and know they’re getting dominated territorially on a nightly basis.
Even in the Rangers’ 5-0 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday, Georgiev faced 4.9 expected goals.
The Rangers have high-end skill in Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, Pavel Buchnevich, Tony DeAngelo and company. They also have a pair of goaltenders who excel at putting out fires in Georgiev and Lundqvist.
High-end skill and superior netminding can only hold up the dam from breaking for so long. Eventually, playing defense this badly without deviation catches up to a team. At some point, the Rangers won’t get an A performance between the pipes or their 10.9 team shooting percentage (tied for fourth best in the NHL) takes a dip.
Playing defense this badly, this often and without any kind of systematic tweaking will eventually burn the Rangers and bury them in the standings.