Four games in the next six days makes this a big week for the New York Rangers and they could break the 100 point barrier tonight against the Los Angeles Kings. Only Ottawa, who they will play on Thursday, have stronger form across the NHL and even since the turn of the year Madison Square Garden has only been on the up. At 9.00 to win the Stanley Cup they look to be the Eastern Conference's best chance of breaking the West's stranglehold of three titles in a row.
Thrashing Anaheim 7-2 on Sunday also means the Rangers now have the best goal differential in the league. Derek Stepan's brace powered a big night for their offence when of late it's been the defensive end leading the way. Despite the continued absence of star net minder Henrik Lundqvist they haven't conceded more than twice in any game so far this month.
Elsewhere their city rivals the Islanders and Pittsburgh have fallen off the pace in the Metro Division which clears the path to a favourable wildcard playoff matchup. You could argue that this side with guys like Keith Yandle added in is stronger than the one that fell at the final hurdle last June. On the path to the Finals they battled through Game 7 three times so to get a relatively easy first round victory this year would be ideal for coach Alain Vigneault.
Trade deadline pickup Yandle has been a solid addition for his passing skills and he helps set up the fast breaks out of the defensive zone that the Rangers do so well. Speed is the hallmark of this group with the likes of Martin St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider on the wings of their top lines. The major exception is of course powerhouse leading goalscorer Rick Nash who has 39 goals on the year and offers something different in front of the net.
Tonight's opponents LA are still in a real scrap to even make the postseason with surprise packages like Calgary and WInnipeg. It would be a huge shock to see the Kings miss out and not even have a chance at defending their crown. The fact their odds to win it all are still as low as 15.00 shows that nobody will take the champions for granted if they do make it in. A win against New Jersey last night was huge for them after tough losses to Anaheim and Vancouver. Against a fast side like New York the hangover from playing last night has to hurt their chances as well.
Best bet: LA desperately need the points but overall with two wins in five they're just not playing well enough to stop the Rangers so back a home win tonight at around 2.15