"I've held out for as long as I could, but I've jumped onto the current bandwagon of Rangers fans that hope they lose every game remaining to improve their draft lottery chances in June. As far as I'm concerned, tonight is the first night of the 2010/2011 New York Rangers season and the best thing possible is to start losing."
Almost 24 hours after shellacking the New York Islanders in a dominant 5-0 win at the Garden, the Rangers not only looked good last night, but actually look like they want to make the playoffs, meaning they will make a big push till the end and in effect stymie my draft-oriented approach for the final stretch of the season a.k.a. lose all or bust.
And to make matters worse, the Blueshirts take on the New Jersey Devils tonight at the Crack Rock in Newark. Only losing three of five games to the Devils this year with one being a blowout loss, the Rangers not only should be confident they can win tonight but should expect to win. Not only have they been able to keep up with this New Jersey team all year save for game two weeks ago, all the pieces are falling into place for the Rangers to pick up a win tonight.
Possibly the biggest factor in tonight's game is the reborn Sean Avery. Besides his apparent ability to get under Ilya Kovalchuk's skin, the newly awake Avery will be in the face of Devils goaltender and fatso-at-large Martin Brodeur for another chapter in the classic rivalry between the two. Sure, Sean can't swing sticks and screen Fatso in creative ways anymore, but his recent penchant for opening his mouth to draw penalties makes it very likely he has something special in store for Fatso and his defense-men tonight.
The other possibility is the resurgance in Marian Gaborik's play. Looking like he's finally getting over his freak-injury that kept his play subdued since before the Olympic Break, a fully healed Marian Gaborik is dangerous against any team. Now that the whole team seems to be spinning on all cylinders, Gaborik's play is going to benefit from the return of aggressive fore checking and smart, confident passes by his teammates.
For someone that was looking to the draft already, it looks like I'm going to be screaming at Fatso Brodeur once again. Not because of a great save or a big shut out but because another two points for the Rangers is another spot down in the draft. I'll be the first to commend Fatso on his career (begrudgingly) and all he's accomplished but I've seen him lose too many big games like this to the Rangers. His sweep in 2006 was against a team that was decimated by injuries (leaving the team quite possibly less talented than this year's) and featured Sandis Ozolinsh, so I won't count that. Never mind, this Devils team beat the Pittsburgh Penguins FOUR times out of FOUR this year, but still conceded two games to a much weaker Rangers team.
All you fans pining for Nino Niederreiter? Hoping to get a top 10 spot in June? Be scared. You might see a first round rematch with the Washington Capitals again in a few weeks.