Barring an incredible push over their final 10 games, the New York Rangers are destined to open the Stanley Cup playoffs on the road.
Based on how they’ve played away from Madison Square Garden, that’s just fine by them.
The Rangers earned their league-leading 26th road victory Saturday by defeating the Minnesota Wild 3-2 at Xcel Energy Center and will look for No. 27 when they visit the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night in Newark, N.J.
New York has struggled at Madison Square Garden, going just 19-15-13 there this season, but it has been by far the NHL’s best road team.
“People are wondering why we don’t win at home and why we win all these road games. We try to play every game the same. It’s a constant theme,” Rangers left winger J.T. Miller told the New York Daily News. “I don’t know why, but we definitely have more hop in our step and jump in our step on the road this year so far.”
With six road games remaining, the Rangers have a chance to break their franchise record of 28 wins set during the 2014-15 season. And while they are dominating away from home, they know they need to solve their home woes before the postseason begins in April.
“I think when we’re home and something goes wrong, we kind of look at ourselves as victims, but when we’re on the road we have a different mentality where we just dig in,” forward Chris Kreider said to the New York Post. “We’re east-west at home and we’re north-south on the road. There’s more attention to detail on the road.
“Obviously it’s not ideal and we have to straighten it out at the Garden, but at the same time we’re proud of the way we play on the road.”
The challenge Tuesday shouldn’t be too great for the Rangers — they’re facing a Devils team that has lost 12 of 13 in a building that is a short train ride from midtown Manhattan. The Rangers could play a north-east or west-south game and come away with two points.
During this 13-game stretch that has derailed their season, the Devils have lost to Arizona and Colorado — the NHL’s two worst teams — in regulation, been shut out three times and have allowed an average of 3.46 goals per game.
Perhaps the added motivation of facing their cross-river rivals will be enough to get a complete performance out of the Devils.
“It’s always a big game when we play them,” goalie Cory Schneider said to the Bergen Record. “We’ve got to fight here and play for some pride. Beating them would feel pretty good at the end of the year. We haven’t had a lot of reasons to feel good about things. It’s on us. We’ve just got to keep sticking with it and finding ways to win games here.”
The Devils have lost all three meetings with the Rangers this season. A fourth loss would mean being swept by New York in a season series for the second time in three seasons.
“Any time you play any of your rivals, whether it be the Flyers, the Islanders or Rangers, it’s going to be a great game no matter how well either team is doing,” said Devils defenseman Steven Santini. “We’ll be ready to go Tuesday.”