Tri-State Teams Red Hot as NHL Playoffs Loom


Joseph O’Connell | Wikimedia Commons

Andrew Kogan

The New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils are well on their way to making the playoffs, jointly, for the first time since 2007.

Since these franchises began playing hockey in the Tri-State area, there have only been two other seasons in which all three teams entered the 16-team chase for The Stanley Cup: 1990 and 1994.

The latter of these two years saw the Rangers and Devils meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, with the Rangers prevailing in seven games and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, where they defeated the Vancouver Canucks for their fourth Cup in franchise history.

Fans of the Hudson River rivals are likely to watch their teams face each other in the very first round of the NHL Playoffs. If the postseason were to start today, the teams would play their first playoff series against each other since 2012, and the Devils would have home-ice advantage.

The Rangers have won seven of their last nine games, including a 6-0 thrash with the Sidney Crosby-led Pittsburgh Penguins on March 18 and a 7-0 blowout of the struggling Nashville Predators a day later, with shutouts from goaltenders Igor Shesterkin and Jaroslav Halak, respectively.

Their streak of dominance was ultimately halted by the Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes after conceding three goals in the third period on the March 21 en route to a 3-2 loss at home in Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers bounced back two days later, defeating the Hurricanes 2-1 in Raleigh. With 10 games remaining in the regular season, they now have 94 points, just four behind the Devils, who are second in the Metro Division with 98.

The Devils, who have made the playoffs just once in the last decade, surprised many around the NHL and took the league by storm this year, with superstar center Jack Hughes leading the way. Hughes has 37 goals and 44 assists in 67 games played thus far this season and will be key to the Devils’ success if they look to make a deep playoff push.

While the Devils have fallen into a bit of a slump this month, posting just one win in their last five games, they only need one more win in their final 10 games of the season to clinch a playoff berth, which would be the team’s first since 2018.

The Islanders, though still favored to make the postseason, find themselves in a heated three-way race with the Penguins and Florida Panthers for the final two wild card spots in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. With 10 games remaining for all three teams, the Islanders and Penguins hold the two spots with 82 and 80 points, respectively, with the Panthers looking right behind with 79 points.

As we enter the final weeks of the regular season, form is key. The Islanders, unlike the Penguins and Panthers, have been on a hot streak in the last month, winning 10 out of their last 15 games, the most recent of which was a 7-2 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s NHL model, the Rangers and Devils both have over a 99% chance of clinching a playoff spot, while the Islanders have an 84% chance of doing the same.