The New York Rangers have played the Pittsburgh Penguins six times this season and they have won only once. They have two more games against the Pens this season and the Rangers must win them both.
It won’t be easy. The Penguins are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Since the beginning of March they have gone 13-4-1. Their 7-5 loss to Boston on Saturday snapped a five game winning streak and they are four points out of first place.
The Boston Bruins are in the final playoff spot, five points ahead of the Rangers and the combination of a Boston loss and a New York win means the margin will be only three points. The belief has been since the Bruins have two games in hand and six games left with the Buffalo Sabres, it will be a tall order for the Rangers to catch them.
That has all changed. Boston has lost both of their starting goalies, Tukka Rask to an injury and Jaroslav Halak to COVID. That means that they are using two rookie goalies with a combined total of four NHL games on their resume. They will rely heavily on Czech goalie Dan Vladar with University of Maine graduate Jeremy Swayman the back up.
Those goal issues, plus the revival of the Buffalo Sabres is making the Bruins’ playoffs hopes much less of a sure thing. And that makes the Rangers’ going all in to make the playoffs a little less of a fool’s errand. Of course, they need to win games, something that they couldn’t do against the Sabres, Capitals and Flyers. Playing .500 hockey won’t cut it.