NHL Postseason: Can the New York Rangers Make a Push for the Playoffs?

Erik JohnsonContributor IMarch 4, 2011

Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik LundqvistRob Carr/Getty Images

The NHL season is winding down to its final stretch, and the New York Rangers once again find themselves in a precarious situation.

After going 4-10-1 in their last fifteen games, the play of the Rangers has raised serious doubt about their postseason chances. They currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Buffalo Sabres sit just two points behind with three games in hand.

The main problem facing the Rangers right now, is their lack of scoring. Veteran defenseman Bryan McCabe was added at the trade deadline to help bolster the power play, but the team managed just four goals and zero wins on its recently completed three-game home stand. Brandon Dubinsky has no goals in his past nine games, while leading goal scorer Brian Boyle has just one in his last eight. To make matters worse, Marian Gaborik remains out with a concussion.

The Rangers' recent woes culminated into a demoralizing 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild last night. Despite dominating the first period, and outshooting the Wild 41-19 overall, the Rangers could not manage to beat veteran netminder Jose Theodore. Failing to convert key opportunities has become a common theme for the Rangers, who frequently outshoot opponents in close losses.

The Blueshirts are back on the road tonight to face last place Ottawa in what has become a must-win game. In the end, the Rangers' schedule is what may lead them to a playoff spot.  They will play seven of their final 16 games against teams with losing records, and have seven different breaks of three games or more. 

This will be crucial for goalie Henrik Lundqvist now that backup Martin Biron is likely to miss the rest of the season with a broken collarbone. Lundqvist is likely to start all but one or two of the Rangers' remaining games. In comparison, the ninth place Sabres play just four games against teams who currently have losing records and have only four breaks of three days or more.

The Rangers have far from guaranteed themselves a playoff spot and, at the moment, things are looking grim. The team's untimely losing streaks have put them in the same predicament they found themselves in last year. The team must now fight its way back into playoff contention. If John Tortorella's club wants to have any chance at getting back into the postseason, then Henrik Lundqvist better be on his game.