by Jess Rubenstein
I know the diehard Ranger fan wants me to say something like “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” in the Ranger quest to catch those evil Fishies for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference . At a time when Ranger fans are trying their best to remain positive and hope that somehow that record setting 6th straight season without playoffs doesn’t happen there is always one person who tosses cold water on the dream . That person, I am sorry to say, is going to be me, as when I look at all the factors involved I still don’t see the Ranger s overtaking the Fishies for that spot .
Yea I know many of you are going to curse me out for being negative at a time when positive is supposed to be the thoughts of the day . However, don’t blame me, instead point the finger at the team itself for waiting way too long to make their push . Point the finger at the team for 5 losses which in my book are going to be exactly what costs the Ranger s the season and the playoff spot .
The Ranger s lost 5 games that will come back to haunt them in several ways so let us start with the 2 most recent losses the 2-1 loss at home on Mar 10 to the Kittens and the Mar 15th 3-1 loss to the Debbies . Now of the 2 of course, the loss to the Kittens is the most tragic since it was a game they should have won, but forgot to show up to play . Those are 2 points in the standings they will never see again . The loss to the Debbies came right after they had lost in OT to the Sens, but it was again a loss that was due mainly in part because the team failed to show up to play . Those are 2 more points in the standings they will never see bringing that total up to 4 . 4 will become a magic number as you will see as this article goes along .
The Fishies have 7 games remaining to play on their schedule 4 away (Blackhawks, Red Wings, Debbies and Canes) and 3 at home (Leafs, Ranger s, and Thrashers) . They currently have 78 points so if you look into the good old crystal ball you will see that the Fishies should win against the Blackhawks, Canes and Thrashers . They should lose to the Red Wings and Debbies so that will leave the Leafs and Ranger games as their toss up matches . The Fishies right now only need to go 3-3-1 over those games to force the Ranger s to have to win every single game left for them to play .
3-3-1 would give them 85 points and from where I sit the playoff spot . The Ranger s final 6 games are 3 at home against the Pens, Thrashers and Debbies along with the Bruins, Fishies, and Canadians on the road . In the case of the Ranger s no game really can be called an easy game given this team’s desire to forget to show up for those games that they should win . However let us give them points for beating the Pens, Thrashers and Canadians . Sadly got to say a loss to the Debbies is just about a sure thing these days for the Ranger s which make the games against the Bruins and Fishies as tossups .
So if the Ranger s were in fact able to win those tossup games then they wind up with 84 points and fall one point short of the 85 the Fishies are projecting out to get . Had the Ranger s won either the Kitten game or Debbie game that would have been the difference between making the playoffs or setting this disgusting record . Do you see what I mean now by not blaming me the little old messenger?
Ah but you are saying what happens if the Ranger s and Fishies end the regular season all tied up in the standings? The news will basically depend on 2 issues there, first how many wins do each team wind up with and what happens on the April Fool’s game . The rules on tiebreakers are simple NOT . Seriously the first 3 main tiebreakers are the number of wins, the head to head and the goal differential .
The Ranger s currently trail the Fishies by 2 games in the win department (again see what those loses do?) so the edge there currently belongs to them . In the head to head the Ranger s right now are ahead 2-1-1 which is making that game on April 1st all that much more important to both teams . If the Fishies hold home ice then it turns the head to head into a wash which will take them to the 3rd tiebreaker and here is where the 3 other losses I mentioned earlier will kill the Ranger ’s playoff hopes .
The Ranger s currently are a minus 18 in goal differential while the Fishies are just a minus 2 . Think back now to these games: The Pens 6-0 win on Oct 12th, the Pens again 6-1 on Dec 26th and the Capitals 7-2 win on Jan 26th . Yes folks those 3 games just so happen to be the 16 goal differential separating the 2 teams . They also just so happen to be the worst games of the year than the Ranger s played . The Ranger failures on defense are going to come back to haunt them there as well .
In truth I see the Ranger s actually falling shorter than the one point difference I projected since I didn’t take into account with those projections that the Ranger s having 2 sets of back to back games left in the schedule . Those games have been perhaps one of the biggest Achilles heels they have had all season long, and their 1-7-2 record in the second game of back to back games is another issue to deal with during the expected long off-season .
Sorry folks to be such a downer at this point in the season but like I said don’t blame the messenger, point the finger at a team that choked in the biggest of games and a GM who doesn’t think defense is an important part of the NHL game.