As the Philadelphia Flyers proved on April 16, teams relish the opportunity to interfere with a division or conference rival’s plan to reach the postseason, even if they themselves have none.
Furthermore, the lesser team in these particular encounters can be difficult to play against because of the possibility that they play with a reckless abandon. Their season is drawing to a close, and they may be more willing to take certain risks a team in the Rangers’ position would not consider.
So these late-season matchups are nothing to scoff at. If the Rangers think they can come out like they did against Philadelphia in their remaining games, then they should just call it a season now.
The Blueshirts are a team filled with talent from top to bottom, and if they can put together five 60-minute performances, they’ll find themselves in a playoff position.
At this point that seems like a lot to ask for, though. Inconsistency will epitomize this season for years to come, even if they end up making the playoffs.
So what exactly will make or break the Rangers’ playoff hopes? A few things. After the jump we’ll take a look at the five most important factors. They range from particular players to specific deficiencies that require attention, and if they’re not addressed before April 27, the Rangers will be on the outside looking in.