The New York Rangers travel to Minnesota for the second game on a three-game road trip. It’s a tough stretch for the Rangers, as they’ll head back home after this trip and then get back on the road for two more games. Seven of their next nine games will be played on the road, so it will be a test for a team who are attempting to develop momentum for next year. There’s an outside shot of the playoffs as a wildcard, but highly unlikely. It’s nevertheless been a promising sign for the Rangers recently. They head into Minnesota with a respectable record of 28-23-4 and 60 points. That is a much record than it looks.
While they’re getting closer to being a competitive playoff team again, the Rangers are still a year or two off from getting there. Don’t be surprised if they are flirting with a wildcard next season, as they seem to be in an uptrend. That’s what makes the last two months of the season so important for the Rangers. If their young core continues to show growth, you are going to see a lot of offseason projections with the Rangers possibly going to the playoffs next season. They already have the superstar in place. Artemi Panarin is locked in and the Rangers can build around him now.
Kaapo Kakko hopes to take a huge leap next season. He could be the x-factor that decides if the Rangers are going to be going to the playoffs. Kakko shows a lot of progress, and I think we’re looking at a team who will surprise more than a few people in 2019-20. The rookie has registered 8 goals and 11 assists in 51 games and has showcased some growing pains. That could change with a full offseason with the Rangers to prepare for next year. He’s a talented guy that just hasn’t been able to get going full speed yet.
The Wild have been coming on strong recently as well. Unlike the Rangers, the Wild are not in the midst of a rebuilding process and were expected to be in win now mode. They made a splash with the offseason acquisition of Mats Zuccarello. That isn’t a team who thought they weren’t going to be going to the playoffs this season, though trading Jason Zucker shifts the tone to a rebuild. Zuccarello has under-performed with this new team, having racked up 14 goals and 16 assists going into Thursday night.
The road to the playoffs is easier in the Western Conference, though, as the Wild have the same amount of points at 60, but are only 4 points behind the Coyotes and Golden Knights for a wildcard. That’s not a whole lot, so the Wild are a team to keep an eye on down the stretch. Their recent successful run has gone mostly unnoticed, but they have been playing solid hockey. Head below for our free Rangers vs. Wild pick.
N.Y. Rangers vs. Minnesota Wild Betting Odds:
Rangers vs. Wild Prediction:
The Wild have won four of their last five games and five of their last seven. They risked falling way behind in the playoff race, but have done themselves plenty of favours to get on the doorstep of a Western Conference wildcard. What it’s going to come down to is the goaltending playing well down the stretch. Beyond that situation, the Wild don’t have to be too worried elsewhere.
Trading Jason Zucker doesn’t help, though I think it was the right time to shed his contract. Instead of a full blown rebuild, I sense a retooling effort is going to be in the works in the next couple of years. That said, the Wild are knocking on the door of the playoffs despite trading Zucker. The cupboard isn’t empty in Minnesota, at least not yet.
Note that their only loss in the last five games has been against a very good Avalanche squad, and that was a competitive game that saw the Wild lose by a score of 3-2. It was a game that could have gone either way, but Francouz closed the door between the pipes. Minnesota is not an easy place to win at as a visitor, and the Avalanche were tested in that contest. The Wild have been sharp at home, posting a record of 17-8-4 as opposed to a mark of 10-15-2 on the road.
The biggest difference for the Wild has been their defensive effort at home. While they’ve allowed 3.2 goals per game on the season, the Wild are much better at home in that regard with 2.76 goals against. Their goal scoring improves as well, having scored an average of 3.07 goals per game overall and 3.24 goals per game at the Xcel Energy Center. In their previous ten games, the Wild have scored 3.5 goals per game and yielded only 2.4 goals a game defensively.
Minnesota welcome a Rangers team who sport a record of 12-11-2 on the road. They shouldn’t mind seeing the Rangers, because it’s been a successful stretch against them in their most recent meetings. The Wild are winners in four of the last five meetings and five of their last seven dates. The Rangers were narrowly able to edge out the Wild in November, 3-2, though that was at Madison Square Garden. Expect the Wild to protect home ice for their fifth win in their previous six contests.