Are the Rangers about to embark on their signature successful homestretch run in order to sneak into the playoffs?
They’re in do-or-die territory, in ninth place in the conference, but they always seem to be in this position—at least the last few years they have been.
Why? Probably because they don’t put in a consistent effort, and they’re offensively and defensively challenged.
Their five-year streak of making the playoffs is in jeopardy, just like their four-year streak was last year (and three-year streak the season before...). They’ve now won two in a row, though, and are 5-2-2 in their last nine games.
They easily whipped Atlanta, 5-2, on Friday night. Their No. 1 line (for this week) starred, with Vinny Prospal scoring two goals with an assist and Marian Gaborik netting one and picking up two assists. Michael Del Zotto scored his first goal in a long time, and Henrik Lundqvist was his usual self. In his last 10 games, he’s only allowed more than two goals twice.
The power play was also productive. If the players actually move around instead of standing in the same spot, it gives them a better chance to score—what a strange, new concept. Lundqvist plus scoring with the man advantage can cover up a lot of mistakes.
On Sunday, the game everybody’s been waiting for took place, and the Rangers played one of their best games of the year. There were no Daniel Carcillo -related incidents (though Brandon Dubinsky surprisingly pummeled Mike Richards ), but the best revenge is to win the game and do it with a thump, and that’s what the Blueshirts did.
After being a healthy scratch for the Atlanta game, Sean Avery had one of his few Sean Avery-like games of the year (see game vs. Dallas, Jan. 6). He scored twice and goaded the Flyers into taking some bad penalties. He was the one playing smart hockey for a change.
Michal Rozsival scored a power-play goal—see what happens when the point man rips off a shot that actually is on goal and isn’t one of those weak wristers they usually employ that also usually goes wide of the net.
The Rangers have been playing with desperation and urgency the past few games, and they’re going to have to keep it up for the last 13 if they want to make the playoffs. They have games with Montreal and the Bruins coming up this week, along with ones vs. Tampa Bay and Philly during this last stretch, so they can help themselves by beating the teams they’re contending with.
Now the real question: Do we even want the Rangers to make the playoffs? If they squeeze in, will it give them (read: Glen Sather ) a false sense of success, since they really haven’t been that good this season?
They’ll most likely just get stomped by Washington in the first round anyway. Sure, you never know what can happen, but even taking them to seven games last year was pure luck. If the Rangers don’t make the playoffs, they’ll be in a better draft position too.
On the other hand, I always want my team to win—every game (in spite of the fact that they’re owned by James Dolan and run by Sather). So, I’ll be rooting for the homestretch Rangers to do it once again and make the postseason for the fifth consecutive year. But do the Rangers themselves want it enough?