The New York Rangers or as I like to call them, the Rags, have an important two game road trip coming up. Normally I would say that a two game roadie is hardly of any significance, but this one is the turning point of the season. After being sellers at the deadline, this team hit a bad skid. But all losing streaks eventually get saved by that much needed road trip. Getting on the road with all of the new faces was what the Rangers needed. They went on an impressive three game tear beating Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. Sitting 7 points out of a playoff spot after a tough loss last night to a Cup contender, the Winnipeg Jets, the Rags head down south for a two game trip that will define this team for the rest of the season.
Thursday night the New York Rangers will face the Tampa Bay Lightning. Every hockey fan should realize the importance of this game. This is the first time that these two teams will face off after the big trade that shipped Miller and Captain Mac to Tampa along with Namestnikov to New York. Both teams will be ready to go and I do believe this will be McDonough’s debut as a bolt. Despite the positions in the standing, this is a big momentum game for each team and the pressure is all on the Lightning. But this is a blog about the Rags so here are a few reasons why this game and road trip is so important.
Rivalry. As I already pointed out, this game needs no build up for the players on either team. Both want to prove that their old squads made a bad decision. Namestnikov has a lot to show Thursday so look for him to have a huge game. Miller and Mac will be hungry to beat their old team and help seal the fate of the Rags as an early off-season team. But the Rangers are now a fresh young team led by guys who can help spark them into a nice winning streak. Kreider, Zucc, and Hayes will be looked upon to push this team into the playoffs. Namestnikov and Spooner will certainly help compliment those three as the number of games remaining disappear.
Points. The Rags are entering desperate mode. Every point is important. Every game is a must win. They are now 7 points out of the last wild card spot. This is where this road trip is important. Getting a win in Tampa will be a huge momentum swing that can launch into a win in Florida two days later. The Panthers are two points out with three games in hand. So let’s just say the next two games are must wins. The Rags need 4 points on this road trip and start to close the gap with the other wild card teams.
Playoffs. The Devils, Blue Jackets, Panthers, and Rangers are the only teams fighting for the last two spots. Sorry Islanders and Hurricanes fans, but your teams will not make the playoffs. Better luck next year. The Blue Jackets seem to be getting hot at the right time with a huge win over Vegas. They also have a very good squad and should probably be a little higher in the standings. So realistically the Devils will be the team to falter and this is why I think they will collapse. Winnipeg, Nashville, Vegas, LA, Anaheim, San Jose, Pittsburgh, and Tampa!!! WOOF!! That gauntlet just isn’t fair. They will be lucky to get 6 points in their next 8 games. So the point gaps for the wild card spots may close up quickly. The Rangers have the team to make a run. They have a goalie who cares about his legacy enough to will this team to the post-season. They have some new faces that are hungry to prove themselves. The Rags are prime to be that team that no one will want to face in the first round.
So all in all. As a Rangers fan these next two games will say a lot about this team. Will the vacation start early in the Florida sun? Or will this team use the roadie as a way to grab 4 points that will propel them into a month of great hockey and steal a playoff spot. Let’s face it. Anything can happen in the playoffs. So the true test is just making them, where it’s a clean slate. A brand new season where your regular season means shit and the team who gets hot reigns supreme.