THE OTHER MARCH MADNESS
NEW YORK RANGERS: Their Eleven Game Road to the Playoffs is Riddled With Dangerous Potholes.
Time is short. There are 11 games left in the Rangers' season.
They've spent the last two weeks ping-ponging in the Conference standings between 7th and 8th place. It's unrealistic to think they can win every game left. But it's not out of line to say they desperately need almost every one of the 22 points left on the table in order to make the playoffs.
Buffalo's early season fall wasn't as steep a drop as it was for the Devils. And Buffalo's subsequent ascension through the ranks wasn't as daunting a task as it still is for the Devils. But Buffalo's remarkable turn-around from a very distressing start qualifies as unbelievable now that they have gained a say in the Conference playoff race (with 76 pints; two behind the Rangers).
Carolina can not be trusted! They just recently defeated Buffalo 1-0 in a brilliant game I watched on Versus. They are sitting in the 9th slot with 74 points; trailing Buffalo, then the Rangers. Cam Ward is hanging up 40 save wins like fine suits in his closet. The guy is unconscious right now. And we all know hot goalies mean everything this time of year. The season series between the Rangers and Carolina is done so they won't face each other before season's end. But the Rangers still have a game against the Sabres on March 30th. And there is no doubt in my mind that game will carry the weight of the world with it.
Toronto is sitting in 10th place with 72 points. Congratulations to them, but who cares!? The New Jersey Devils are about to render them irrelevant once they pass them in the standings. The two teams can end tonight tied with 72 points each depending on how things go. But when the Devils do pass them (...and they will), Toronto can start calling their travel agents. As I write this post, both the Devils and Maple Leafs are losing.
The Devils are a miraculous six points out of the eighth place spot with 13 games left to play. What the Devils are in the midst's of accomplishing is astonishing. The Rangers and Devils will play on April 9th in what will be the Blueshirts' last game of the season. That game, along with the Rangers/Sabres game on March 30th will most likely decide our season. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a game against the Thrashers on April 7th being equally critical to our playoff survival. The rub regarding that final game against the Devils is that New Jersey will still have one more game against the Bruins left to play. And if the Rangers playoff invitation isn't written by that time, they may be forced to watch television for a day to see where they stand.
Points are of the essence. How's that for the under-statement of the year?
I'm still a little burnt up about Quacking up those two points in Anaheim. But what this edition of Blueshirts has done over and over again, just when the old Ranger fan in us wants to throw our hands in the air in disgust, is remind us they're a group built on a solid foundation of fortitude.
The went to San Jose and took a big bite out of the SHARKS when they needed to most and then followed up by storming the Fightin' Islanders at home.
The Rangers are 4-1 in their last five games. By defeating the Islanders, they evened their home record to .500 (...finally). Six of their last eleven games are at home now and they get to end their season with three home games. As I mentioned, the last one will be against the Devils. And while it's starting to sound like a broken record now, the Rangers have to; absolutely need to play better at home; if not only to make the playoffs, but they'll need to be better at home through the second season for as long as they can last....If..
March 18, 2011
NEW YORK RANGERS
Madison Square Garden
33rd Street and 7th Avenue
This Friday night should be a raucous evening at the Garden. The NHL is The Other March Madness.
My son and I will be in attendance, and our expectation is to experience an exceptionally rambunctious crowd. It being Friday night with the Rangers clinging to their playoff lives should make for a most lively night at the Garden. And Oh No!...if the Canadiens score first..., you know how the place gets. It's like they killed John Lennon again at center ice.
Two thirds of the old N.J. Devils' "Egg-Line" and the rest of the Montreal Canadiens are coming to town for a good old fashioned Original Six match-up. Montreal is one spot above the Rangers in the standings sitting in 6th place. But Montreal has a five point advantage on the Rangers. So, the Blueshirts future lies in their ability to secure the seventh or eighth spot. So again I say, points are of the essence.
There are no soft spots left in the Rangers' schedule. Pittsburgh, Atlanta, New Jersey, Buffalo, Boston two times, and Philadelphia all remain on the Ranger docket. Tonight, Ottawa is giving the Devils all they can handle...Again! We'll be facing Ottawa again shortly. And if you care to under-estimate an upcoming game against Florida, do so at our peril. Add in another game against the Islanders that's what the rest of the schedule looks like.
I've travelled smoother roads on the moon cratered surface they call the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, than the road the Rangers must negotiate in order to get into the Second Season. They just gotta strap up and follow the Black and Blue Road. They have their work cut out for them. But they are a resilient bunch with a lot of tenacity.
The problem is we just don't know whether this team is slipping; sustaining; or surging. It's hard to tell. But who said life was easy? If life were that easy, we'd be scoring more goals and that's something I don't want to get into today.
Coach Torts vs. Sean Avery:
I posted this last night; Avery and Torts Rift is Now a Chasm
I have taken up Sean Avery's cause all season. In spite of his penalty minutes, I think he'll be more helpful than harmful to us with consistent ice time and playing on better quality lines. As a Ranger fan who also likes Coach Torts, I think his handling of Sean Avery this season has been completely wrong. Coming off Sean Avery's performance against the Islanders, I'm too curious to see what Coach Tortorella has in mind for Sean against the Canadiens. I'm not defending Avery's performance Tuesday night at all. But if Avery had spent more time this season playing like he did two nights ago, Coach would be far more justified in his treatment of his forward. But Avery hasn't been "that" way. Closer to the truth is the fact he's been a more than respectable citizen in spite of erratic, and logic defying randomness with regard to ice-time Coach Torts allots him. Sean Avery is one of this team's most complete players; in the sense he's a jack of all trades. Look through the nonsense (that hasn't existed this season) and you'll see a very good Hockey player. His season-long under-utilization can only be emanating from something personal Coach Torts has against Avery, (which was never a secret to begin with).
I'm just calling for Coach Torts to give Sean Avery a fair shake for a change instead of shaking his head at Avery, it seems, every time he skates out on the ice.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Look what Ottawa did to you...Again!
What ever it is the Devils are selling, the Ottawa Senators aren't buying it. For the second time down this playoff-stretch, the Senators poured a bucket-o-cold-water on the Devils' flaming play. The Devils are 5-2 in March. Both losses have been against Ottawa. After tonight, the Devils have twelve games remaining. Because Buffalo was idle tonight, the Devils remain six points behind the Sabres for the number eight spot. But the bad news is Atlanta beat Philadelphia and leapfrogged ahead of the Devils again, joining Toronto (who lost tonight) with 72 points and four away from Buffalo.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
NEW YORK ISLANDERS: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
The Long Islanders can give the Blueshirts a huge assist Friday night with a win over the 'Canes in Carolina. The Islanders still have reasons to go all out, but their chances at a playoff spot are fading fast. If they can get a couple of shots past a possessed Cam Ward, what a help that would be to the Rangers.
You-Tube sensation Rick DiPietro, is back after getting devastated by a left hook as a result of a bad decision he made against Pittsburgh. If, and when does he start again? Who knows. Al Montoya has been OK.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Some where below the Mason Dixon Line