Fri 9 Apr 2010
Now that the New York Rangers season comes down to the final two games against the Philadelphia Flyers, it is time for take a mulligan on my last column when I said the Rangers must go into the tank for the rest of the season to improve their draft position. My newfound advice comes from Adrian to her husband in Rocky II, “Win. Win!”
I know some of you might be wondering why the change in heart. There is a simple answer. Once the Rangers went on their 6-1-1 roll, they lost any chance at securing the first overall selection in the NHL Draft. As things stand now, the Rangers would most likely select 10th overall and could only move up four places if they were lucky enough to win the lottery. In the 10th slot, the Rangers have something like a 2% chance of winning the Draft lottery. Once again the Rangers were bad, but not bad enough to hit hit it big in the NHL Draft.
If the Rangers did make the playoffs, they would select 15th overall. Five spots means a lot when you can go from picking 10th to first. It doesn’t mean all that much when you can go from 15th to 10th.
Given those odds, the Rangers might as well polish off the Flyers and take the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and try their luck with a rematch against the Washington Capitals. You can pretty much presume that this year’s result would not be the same as last year’s result because the Blueshirts would be pressed mightily to extend the series to seven games this year, but as that wise sage the New York Lottery says, “You got be in It to win it” and “Hey, you never know.”
Hockey is the one sport where an underdog can jump up and take a bit of a favorite because of the play of a hit goaltender. The Rangers saw that first hand last year when they had the Caps down three games to one before rookie Semeon Varlamov took control of the series.
While Henrik Lundqvist has been up-and-down this season, he still has the ability to carry the team to a victory in a playoff series. While it isn’t likely to happen if the Rangers make playoffs, it is a certainty that he can’t steal a playoff series if the Rangers don’t make the playoffs.
Thus ends my logical explanation as to why the Rangers should make the playoffs. The mere fact that I am a Ranger (fan) means that logic goes out the window come April. I have been a Rangers fan since 1971 and each Spring there is always a part of me that can rationalize how the Rangers can make a series run at the Stanley Cup – even though 1994 was the only year when logic and fact aligned.
In all likelihood, I am just being pulled back into fantasy based on the Rangers recent run – despite the fact that five of those wins came against teams that are out of the playoffs. Perhaps I have just been conditioned to accept the Rangers frantic made dash to the playoffs as an inevitable rite of passage late in the season.
Only a diehard Ranger fan would think back to April 4, 2006 when the Rangers beat the Flyers 3-2 in a shootout to clinch the Blueshirts first playoff appearance in nearly decade. Surely, it is fate shining on the Rangers again by clinching the playoffs against the Flyers, isn’t it?
While the Rangers might have pulled me back in, I am not one of those fans who is wringing his hands over Lindy Ruff’s decision to rest Ryan Miller last night and play Patrick Lalime against the Boston Bruins. The Buffalo Sabres earned their right to rest their players by winning their division and clinching a playoff spot. Ruff’s only concern should be for the Sabres, not for how the rest of the playoffs might shape up.
If there is animosity from the Rangers or their fans, it is a waste of time. The Blueshirts had their chances to make their final week of the season more relaxed. However, they blew that opportunity by phoning in a pair of games against Boston and the Montreal Canadiens. They had their chance to earn two points instead of one in Toronto but frittered away the lead and lost in overtime. They kissed two points goodbye when they could not take advantage of a shaky Ty Conklin in a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Honestly, you can probably find a dozen or so games where the Rangers lost golden chances to earn an extra point here or two points there. Their 17-17-6 home record pretty much explains why the Rangers are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since the NHL returned to action following the Lockout.
When all is said and done, and all of the consequences are weighed and measured, there is one reason why Rangers Nation must unite behind the idea of the Rangers winning the final two games and making the playoffs.
If the Rangers do win the final two games and make the playoffs, then that means the Philadelphia Flyers will not make the playoffs. In the long run, that is a good reason for me.
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