Monday, February 15, 2010

Rangers Heading Into Olympic Break...

Well, if you are going to head into Olympic break, you might as well go in like the Rangers did.

(Of course, ideally, you'd like to go in with a 10+ point lead on the next team behind you and leading your division, but, come on, these are the Rangers here; we have to be happy with what we can get.)

Anyway, so the Rangers last two games leading into the break were an impressive win against Pittsburgh IN Pittsburgh, in a building they hadn't won at in over two year and yesterday's hard fought come from behind victory over Tampa Bay at the Garden.

The Pittsburgh win was important because, well, they are Pittsburgh, and see above regarding the Rangers inability to win there. Wins like that build confidence.

The Tampa Bay win had a bit of everything. The come from behind aspect. The scoring five goals aspect. It had fights. It had goals. It had the feeling of an enjoyable hockey game we frankly have just not seen often enough this year at the Garden.

(If we're being honest.)


Where does that leave the Rangers though?

Sadly, probably in no real better position than they were the week before and when they come back from Olympic break. The Eastern playoff race is simply a log-jam.

At break, the Rangers sit in 10th place, with 63 points, and one game above .500. To better put in perspective, they are 5 points out of 6th place. But they also only have 4 more wins than Carolina, a team that slept through the entire first half of the hockey season.

So, when people ask me if the Rangers are going to make the playoffs, I say this. They have as good a chance as anyone. The Rangers didn't do themselves any favors this year, by starting hot and then failing to score (unless they were #10), blowing some bad games, and having a horrible record at MSG. But at the same time, everyone in the East has been so up and down, the Rangers own foot-shooting has not totally ruined their post-season chances. (And just imagine where they'd be if they did not have such a hot start?)

Now if Gaborik or Lundqvist does not come back in one piece from their tours of Olympic duty, or even if they come back whole but go on to struggle, I don't think this team has a shot. But, again, that's something many of us were saying in September. This team will go as Gaby and Hank take them. And we've seen, when one or both struggle, the Rangers rarely win.

The last two Gaborik-less games were a nice exception.


Now, of course, none of this is to say the Rangers would do anything in the playoffs, Hank or no Hank, Gaby or no Gaby. If this season has shown us anything, it's that the Rangers do not have the depth for much of anything.

Their defense is young or old, and the contracts of the old contigent prevents them from getting much help in any way.

Their offense starts and ends with one player, whose 35 goals have been carrying this team for the entire season. Prospal has been a wonderful surprise. Callahan has started to pot some more goals recently to get closer to the 20 many expected (hoped) him to have. But beyond that, the offense-from-defense is practically non-existent and has been since the earlier parts of the season. The secondary scoring is absent, or comes in little droves, like having five good games and then 15 mediocre ones. (See: Captain Fun).

So, no I don't think this team is going far this year, no matter how the Olympics or post-Olympic month and a half of the season play out.

But, if we learned anything from last year's playoff experience, a somewhat mediocre team can push a much, much better team to the brink of elimination with some stellar goaltending. So if the Rangers happen to sneak into a spot, you never know what can potentially, impractically happen.


Meanwhile, the Olympic break looms, followed by a very short time frame for any trade activity.

Do I think the Rangers should do anything?

Umm, baring them finding a way to shed any of the big 3 (Rozi, Redden, Drury) contracts, I don't see why they should. I mean yes, they could trade people away to real contenders, and that'd be fine, but they should in no way sacrifice any big parts of their always uncertain future for a rental - a rental that will probably lead them right to a first round exit.

Just saying. . .

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