by Jess Rubenstein
Ok now right off the bat I am going to tell you folks that I really don’t believe that even with the win over the Bruins last night that the playoffs really are going to happen for the Rangers. Even though they pulled within 4 points of the Bruins with the win it remains to be seen if this Ranger team as it is built has what it takes to win enough games to in fact wind up in 8th place by the end of the regular season. At best it remains a major long shot but instead what I am tired of is seeing all these scenarios that suggest what the Rangers have to do and what the other teams have to not do for the Rangers to make the playoffs.
Want to know what I think? Simple stop worrying about what everyone else does and just win as many games as possible. It sounds very easy doesn’t it? The way I see things these scenarios as built upon the premise of what the other team does to force the Rangers do such and such.
There is just one silly little problem with all the scenarios that are being written all the time and that is they are based upon the other teams playing 500 hockey. Has anyone looked lately at the standings to see what everyone is doing as of late? Hint of the 5 teams that are fighting for the 8th and final playoff spot only one team is playing above 500 hockey in their last 10 games. That team is the Rangers and they barely are above 500 themselves but everyone else is below that magical 500 mark so it tosses all those scenarios into the toilet.
Everyone talks about all those games in hand that everyone but the Rangers have and how there is nothing the Rangers can do about them since they have played more games than they have. Guess what everyone is wrong when they say that there is nothing the Rangers can do since because of those games in hand the pressure is on the Rangers to win now. They are right about the need to win now but what I think so many are missing is how the Rangers can turn those games in hand into a weapon of their own to help them.
What I am thinking is that right now no team has been able to step up their game and run away with that last playoff spot. Heck of the 5 teams that are involved in the fight for that spot only the Rangers won last night everyone else lost. That is right the Pens, Habs and Panthers all lost along with the Bruins so it got me thinking of how I think the Rangers can turn things around and put pressure on the other teams.
When you see how people are saying that those games in hand are like an insurance policy for the other teams then the way to change that is for the Rangers to do what they haven’t been able to do all season long which is a real winning streak. If the Rangers can somehow put together say about a 5-6 game unbeaten streak right now then it will change everything. It will turn those games in hand from an insurance policy to pressure packed must win games for those other teams. The key word here folks is unbeaten not winning as what I am suggesting is some wins and some ties put together can do some damage.
Yea I know a Ranger unbeaten streak of 5-6 games is asking for a miracle but think about it for a second once you stop laughing at this idea of mine. When those other 4 teams are averaging about 3 wins in their last 10 games what kind of pressure a 5-6 game unbeaten streak would put on them? Does anyone seriously think that any of those 4 other teams have the kind of team that could match a Ranger winning streak?
The Pens can’t that’s for sure Mario or no Mario, The Habs or the Panthers couldn’t either as neither of those teams have the kind of offensive firepower to get hot. The Bruins could if they could ever get healthy but their team is so messed up at the moment that I expect old Robbie to be fired at any moment. I take it by now that I am getting your attention and perhaps even some of the most cynical of you (who really are like me) are seeing that this is quite possible.
Now of course I fully realize that given the upcoming schedule it would be a minor miracle since the best the Rangers have done was a 3 game win streak but look at the upcoming schedule and see what I am saying. They got the Panthers at home twice in 10 days, then both the Islanders and Flyers also at home before road games with the Sens and Devils. The Panthers the Rangers should be able to beat in both games, neither the Islanders or Flyers are setting the world on fire either so a win and a tie from those games on home ice is possible.
The Devils have only been able to tie the Rangers each time they have played so another tie would be nice so that leaves the Sens as the really truly tough game in this upcoming stretch which makes this unbeaten streak possible. If the Rangers can get say 9 points out of this stretch then given how everyone else is playing it will change everything for them as well since none of them are playing well as of late.
Realistically I know that this is almost impossible to expect from the Rangers but at the same time it offers a more simple scenario than all those win 12 out of 15 while everyone else is 500 scenarios being offered up. I don’t believe that there is a magic ceiling of points for that last playoff spot given how poorly all 5 teams have been most of the season. To me the first team to put together any kind of win or unbeaten streak will take that 8th spot so the Rangers have as good a chance as everyone else does.
Now of course I realize that I am asking the impossible of the Rangers given how they have shot themselves in the foot all season long. However at the same time right now everyone else is doing the same so why the heck not?