Just a few short weeks ago at the trade deadline, the Rangers were very much at risk of missing the playoffs for a second straight year. A 4-6-1 record in the month of February – with only two wins in regulation – combined with improved play from Montreal, Carolina and Buffalo, had evaporated what was once a solid position in the standings.
Things didn’t get any easier with the loss of Martin Biron to a broken collar bone literally minutes after the likes of Ty Conklin had cleared waivers, leaving the Rangers virtually reliant on Henrik Lundqvist to carry the load the rest of the way.
Faced with the adversity of turning around their season, the Rangers have done just that. Yesterday’s 1-0 win over the Bruins extended their record to 8-3-1 in March, and they’ve lost only once in regulation in their last ten games.
It’s been a team effort. Back in February goal scoring was a particular challenge for a team which had several players carrying double digit streak of futility. In the past ten games, only Ruslan Fedotenko and Wojtek Wolski have failed to light the lamp amongst the forward group.
Leading the way is Ryan Callahan with seven goals and seven assists in his last ten, including his first four goal game in a 7-0 win over the Flyers March 6th. Artem Anisimov has chipped in 4 goals and 6 assists, while Vinny Prospal has probably been as big a catalyst as anyone with 2 goals and 8 assists.
The power play has improved since the addition of Bryan McCabe, even if McCabe himself hasn’t necessarily been the obvious catalyst. Put it down to improved confidence and a bit more creativity from the blueline combined with the return of Prospal.
In net, Henrik Lundqvist has improved his game, shutting out the Capitals, Panthers and Bruins, and allowing just 23 goals in the twelve games he’s played this month. By contrast the Rangers have scored 38.
As it stands today, the Rangers need just 8 more points from their 6 remaining games to be assured of a playoff spot, and still could finish as high as fifth depending on other results.
Remaining on the schedule are three road games, followed by three home. Three against teams currently in playoff position – including the Sabres and Flyers this coming week – and three against teams who will not be participating in the post season.
A win in Buffalo Wednesday could all but seal their return.