Rangers, Islanders’ playoff chances far from a sure thing

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VSiN’s analytics-based hockey analyst calculates the chances of the metropolitan area teams to make the playoffs in the ultracompetitive East Divison.

Rangers

After getting swept by Carolina three games into their bubble hockey adventure, the Rangers needed a pick-me-up. They got it in the form of a draft-lottery win and naturally, they selected the best player available, Alexis Lafreniere, No. 1 overall. For a player of his caliber, 35 points in 56 games seems like a reasonable bet, but it all depends on who he plays with and how much power-play time he receives. A breakout season from Kaapo Kakko, the No. 2-overall pick in 2019 by the Rangers, would also make this team even more dangerous on offense.

With the likes of Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad up front, and the puck-moving ability of Adam Fox and Tony DeAngelo on the back end, this team is built for speed. Where the trouble starts, however, is on defense. According to hockey stats website Evolving Hockey, the Rangers conceded more expected goals on a per-60-minute basis than any other team in the league last season. Igor Shesterkin has been outstanding in a small sample of games, and he has an impressive pedigree, but this is tall order. Shesterkin (and Alexandar Georgiev) might be enough to put the team over the top, but it’s tough to give them any more than an outside chance of making the playoffs.

Projection: 60.3 points. Playoffs: 37 percent chance. Win division: 5 percent chance.

Islanders

It’s been three years since Mathew Barzal broke into the league and made about a dozen teams wish they hadn’t of passed on him at the draft. Now, the 23-year-old center has a big say in whether the Islanders make the playoffs in a very tough East Division. Can he be the guy? Maybe, but he needs help to generate offense and it doesn’t look like there’s much, if any, coming. Anthony Beauvillier is the only Islander forward who still has the potential to break out because, like Barzal, he is also only 23. We know exactly what to expect from the rest of the forward group.

Ryan Pulock is an elite defender, but the team made a bold move in trading Devon Toews for a couple of draft picks. Toews was the arguably the Islanders’ best puck mover and the team will probably miss him once they realize Nick Leddy isn’t the player he once was. None of it matters if they don’t get great goaltending from Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin, though. Average goaltending probably would not be enough, unless they add some offense.

Projection: 61 points. Playoffs: 41 percent chance. Win division: 6 percent chance.

Devils

An argument could be made that after bringing in Corey Crawford via free agency to join Mackenzie Blackwood, the Devils have one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL. Crawford, 36, is still borderline elite. Those two are the reason the Devils have any shot at the playoffs. The potential unit of Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri and Jesper Bratt projects to be one of the lowest-scoring first lines in the league. The team’s defense just isn’t where it needs to be and there’s not enough scoring. The Devils do have cap space, but don’t expect them to do much with it.

Projection: 55.4 points, Playoffs: 16.4 percent chance, Win division: 1.3 percent chance.

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