With only six games left in the regular season and a current eighth seeding in a very competitive Eastern Conference, it is time to finally pose the question: will the New York Rangers make it into the postseason?
There are still six crucial games left in a tight playoff race and any serious mistake could lead to an early trip to the golf courses. However, if you look at how the Rangers are playing now, ignore Tuesday’s loss against the Flyers and examine the schedule they have for the rest of the season, it is difficult to count them out.
In those last six games, the Rangers are going to be playing the Carolina Hurricanes, the Buffalo Sabres and will see both the Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils twice. All six of those games are games the Rangers could easily win. It’s doubtful and a lot to expect that they’ll pull off six wins, but it’s nobody that tough.
Really, the only concerns the Rangers should have with the schedule is that they’re going to have to see hungry teams like New Jersey and Buffalo, and while both teams may be lower in the standings, they’re no teams to snivel at.
If there’s one type of team the Rangers cannot succeed against as witnessed in games against the Montreal Canadians, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Sabres, it is teams dominated by their speed and skill players. Their track record against Buffalo has been good in the past several seasons, but those games are always hard-fought battles, and sometimes they’re only for one point.
The biggest concern on the Blueshirts’ schedule right now are those two games against New Jersey. Regardless of standings, games between the Rangers and the Devils are almost always high-energy, blood baths for glory. And points, but mainly glory and bragging rights. The winner of those games is always the one who is hungrier.
And after this past Tuesday’s defeat, I’m not sure if the Rangers are going to be hungry enough for the games that are going to be more challenging.
The moment I read that Brad Richards looked devastated in the locker room after the team’s loss against the Flyers was when I started to worry. I know Richards hasn’t been the most consistent of players since he has been here, but to me he represents the player who never gives up and always comes up big when needed.
The last player I want to see or know feels defeated is him.
With that being said, I am a New York fan and I am a cynic. Optimism in a New Yorker’s eyes is usually viewed as cynicism by everyone else. And if there is one team out of all the teams I root for that is able to prove me wrong nine times out of 10, it’s the Rangers.
And if the Rangers do make it into the playoffs this year, everyone, regardless of who they root for, has to remember that the playoffs are a whole new ball game. Sure, there is probably no team in the league who will be able to outscore a healthy Pittsburgh Penguins line up, but maybe destiny will rear her frightening, beautiful face on hockey this year and decide to be as cruel as ever.
Maybe the Rangers will be some sort of Cinderella story when the playoffs roll around and the Stanley Cup victory many predicted before the season started will become a reality.
And then I wake myself up from my dreams, realize that is probably not going to be the case and pray for the best.