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Wednesday picks: Rangers look to inch closer to last Wild Card spot

New York Rangers Wild Card

It is a slower day for the NHL with only three games being played, but any hockey is good hockey from a fan’s perspective. The Predators and Maple Leafs will be a game with two of the top teams in each conference going at it. The Oilers and Kings will be rocking on the West Coast in a Pacific Division clash.

But the Rangers trying to inch closer into playoff position against the Bruins should be the most exciting game to watch.

Rangers vs. Bruins

Pick: Bruins

Lots of speculation has been made lately about the Rangers potentially moving Rick Nash, but that will not stop the team from trying to inch closer towards a Wild Card position. They will be looking to do just that against a Boston Bruins team that is red hot.

Recently, the Bruins got back young defensemen Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy is one of the top young players on the Bruins, and he continues to impress players and fans all across the NHL.

Lending a helping (March) hand

New York Rangers Wild Card
(Photo by Jimmy Murphy)

In addition to McAvoy’s recent return, star forward Brad Marchand is set to return from his five-game suspension. Even after his suspension, Marchand still leads the Bruins in points with 50 and assists with 29.

Marchand’s excellent play this season has been the fuel for the Bruins’ success. Having him back on the ice will be a big help to a top line that is already incredible. As the Bruins continue to get players back, they will continue to get better.

The return of Marchand should spark an already thriving Bruins team. The Bruins offense ranks fifth in points, and with the recent play of Tuukka Rask, Boston have the defense to match. Rask has the sixth-best save percentage in the NHL right now, and his 2.09 goals against average ranks third among goalies.

New York struggles

The Rangers have struggled recently, and it has them starting to get into the seller’s mindset before the trade deadline. The Rangers are losers in six of their last seven. They have not been able to get anything going.

The Rangers’ problems are pretty sporadic. On some nights, the offense is playing well, but the defense doesn’t get it done and vice versa. If the Rangers hope to inch closer towards playoff position against the Bruins, they are going to have to put a full game together on both sides.

They can start by patching up the defensive struggles. The Rangers are 22nd in goals against at 2.98 per game. Their power play defense has been average at best. They have the 14th ranked penalty kill unit, and that is not good for a team that is in the top half of the league in penalties per game.

Rick Nash

Rick Nash will be the topic of discussion until he gets traded. It’ll be interesting to see how hard he plays now that he knows he is potentially on his way out. Nash doesn’t seem like the type of player to do that, but you never know when someone openly knows he will be traded.

In 53 games this season, Nash has 25 points on 15 goals and 10 assists. Nash has been a member of the Rangers since the 2012-13 season and will likely be on the move within the next few weeks.

Result

I like the Bruins in this one. Their recent play has been some of the best in the NHL, and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. I like them to take this one in a division rivalry game against the Rangers.

Maple Leafs vs. Predators

Pick: Maple Leafs

The Predators head to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs in what will be a matchup of defense against offense.

Nashville has the fourth best goals against average in the NHL at 2.49 goals a game. A lot of this is due to the play of goalies Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. As a team, Nashville is tied for the best save percentage in the NHL at .922.

The game changer in this matchup will be the power plays. Toronto’s power play, lead by Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau is top ten in the NHL in success rate. They are going up against the most penalized team in the league.

I think the relentless offense of the Maple Leafs will be too much for the Preds, especially if Nashville finds themselves in the box, which I think they will. That is why I am going with Toronto to take this one.

Kings vs. Oilers

Pick: Kings

The Oilers are coming off one of their best games of the season. Superstar Connor McDavid recorded five points in a 6-2 win over the top team in the NHL in Tampa.

Outside of this, the Oilers have not had much to cheer for this year. They’re in the bottom half of the league in scoring offense and defense, and their power play and penalty kill have been awful at 30th and 31st in the league.

The Kings have been trending upwards recently. Their defense has been terrific all year long, and their offense is slowly starting to get it going. I don’t think this game will be much of a contest. I believe the Oilers will be worn out by the Kings in a win for LA.

 

Featured image from ABC6

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