Yesterday’s game in Philadelphia rightfully conjured up nightmares of last year’s final day shootout loss debacle that eliminated the Rangers from playoff contention. But, New York was able to reverse its fortunes this time around, defeating the Flyers in a shootout by a 3-2 score. The 2 points proved huge as the Buffalo Sabres beat Carolina 2-1 in overtime, putting the Hurricanes 2 points behind the Rangers for the final playoff spot. And that final playoff spot will be up for grabs with the final week of the regular season upon us. However, its a cross-river rival that could hold the collective playoff fate of the New York Rangers.
You have to wonder if fortune teller, soothsayers, or prophets have a hand in making the schedules for professional sports teams. How many times over the years have we seen the same playoff teams battling for contention face each other at the most critical of times? Rangers and Sabres last week, Sabres and Hurricanes yesterday. And, on the final day of the regular season, its’ the New Jersey Devils that could be poised to decide whether or not the Rangers enter Lord Stanley’s dance. As is customary, it can never be easy for the Rangers.
New York finishes the season at MSG for matches against Boston, Atlanta, and New Jersey. It will be a difficult task considering the Rangers home woes (18-16-4) at various times during the season. Boston comes in tonight looking for revenge from the 1-0 shutout by Henrik Lundqvist & co. from 10 days ago. Atlanta has played the Rangers tough this season, sporting a 2-1 record with the only blemish coming from late-game heroics by Brian Boyle and Mats Zuccarello. In other words, Atlanta is no cake-walk. And New Jersey would relish the opportunity to take away the second season from the Rangers.
Carolina finish up with games against the Red Wings, Thrashers, and Lightning. It will not be an easy task for them to get the points necessary as well. As far as the Rangers are concerned, 60 minute efforts will be needed in all 3 of their final contests. It may be too tall of an order to ask for all 6 possible points. However, if the Blueshirts slip up in their very slim margin for error, the 12:30 matinee on Saturday against the Devils could be this season’s Philadelphia game; with the playoffs hanging in the balance once again.