Evan Cohen: 5 Questions and 5 Games : Ranger Nation – The ultimate stop for New York Rangers fans! NYRNation.net - Ranger Nation

Evan Cohen: 5 Questions and 5 Games

Going into tonight’s gigantic matchup with the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center in upstate New York, the New York Rangers have five games left to maintain a spot in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Right now, the Rangers sit in 8th place with five games remaining.  They currently hold the tie-breaker new-york-rangers-logoover the Winnipeg Jets based on the fewer number of games played, and that is based on the better points percentage out of games played.  The best the Blueshirts can do is finish with 58 points.  Possible?  Yes.  Likely?  You have seen them play on more than one occasion this season, right?  Below are 5 questions pertaining to the team going forward for the final push for a playoff spot:

1)       How many points do the Rangers need to make the playoffs as an eight seed or better?

While 10/10 would be great, it’s not likely that this team will do that.  Looking at the schedule and the teams remaining (at Buffalo, Florida and Carolina as well as two at home against the Devils).  The collective record going into tonight’s Buffalo game is 5-3.  8/10 would go a long way to another post-season appearance, but 7/10 is probably more realistic.  You also have to factor in the performance of the teams fighting for the last few spots.

2)      The Rangers have no games left against what are considered quality teams.  Does this mean they have an above average chance to leapfrog a team or two into a better playoff match-up?

A quality team is considered a team that has more points than games played.  Including tonight, the Rangers have ZERO quality teams left on their schedule.  The 5 seed is out of the question unless Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Washington and the Islanders all tumble in the next 9 days.  The best case scenario is the Rangers keep scoring four plus goals a game and the Senators cool down.  A more likely case is that they move into the 7 spot and face the Bruins or Habs.  Of course, the worst case is they get a measly two points out of 10 and end up in the draft lottery.

3)      Has defending Vezina Trophy winning goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, played too many minutes in this lockout shortened season?

In a word…Yes!  I understand Coach John Tortorella has to put his team in the best position to win every game that he can.  I get that you have to scratch and claw at this point in the season for every point you can, but give the man a break.  Last night’s game against the worst team in the league, the Florida Panthers, would have been an ideal time to rest “The King”.  It’s not as if the back-up net minder, Martin Biron, has been awful.  Below are the season statistics (thanks to ESPN.com for the chart):

PLAYER

GP

W

L

OTL

GAA

TOI

SV

SV%

SHO

TGA

TSA

PIM

Henrik Lundqvist

38

20

15

3

2.06

2274:02

1001

.928

1

78

1079

0

Martin Biron

6

2

2

1

2.32

335:42

143

.917

0

13

156

0

 

 

It was my understanding that Biron was signed to spell Hank from time to time so he was fresh for the post-season.  The last time Biron played was March 30th in a 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.  If Lundqvist doesn’t get a rest between now and April 27th, the regular season finale against the Devils at MSG, #30 will have played in a minimum 18 straight games (14 in a row to end the season and at least four games in round one of the playoffs if they make qualify).

4)      Heading into the game with Buffalo, the Rangers have matched their goal total for the month of March.  Is the increase in scoring due to the trades made at the trade deadline?

The easy answer would be that it was all to be blamed on the tensions between former winger, Marian Gaborik, and Head Coach John Tortorella.  There is more to a team dynamic then a dispute between the coach and a team’s best player.  You have to wonder if the Rangers bringing in former Columbus Blue Jackets winger, Rick Nash, bruised the ego of the talented Czechoslovakian.  When an organization has a chance to make a team better, they went for it.  Hockey is a team sport and some “superstars” don’t get that.  It is also my belief that Nash was “clutching the stick too tightly” leading up to the trade deadline.  By that, I mean he felt the pressure to try and score more as Gabby and F Brad Richards struggled.

In two separate deals, the Rangers acquired Ryan Clowe, a winger from the San Jose Sharks and received C Derek Brassard and D John Moore as the key principles in the deals.  All Clowe, Brassard and Moore have done is score 6 goals and handed out 11 assists for 17 points.  Oh, and who could forget the return of RW Mats Zuccarello.  The diminutive Norwegian has 3 goals, 2 assists and 5 points in 10 games.  The depth up front has been the biggest key to the increase in scoring in April.

5)      If things remain status quo and the Rangers stay in the 8th spot, they would play the Pittsburgh Penguins.  That is assuming the Pens hold onto the top spot in the Eastern Conference.  Does New York have a chance to make it a competitive and even win the series?

The great thing about the NHL is that regardless of playoff seeding, ANY team has a chance to pull off that first round stunner.  This year, the Penguins owned the Rangers from the beginning of the season to the April 3rd trade deadline.  The Pens won by scores of 6-3, 3-0, 3-0.  The night of the deadline, the teams played and the Rangers buried the puck six times en route to a 6-1 win.  Two nights later, the teams went to overtime in a game that saw the Penguins win 2-1 in a shootout.  The games were more competitive since the start of April.  In fairness to the Penguins, they have had injuries up and down the line-up to Sydney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang among others.  To expect the Rangers to keep scoring goals at the current clip might be a little premature, especially with goals in the playoffs harder to come by.  However, a hot goalie can carry a team for an entire series and in some cases, an entire post-season.   If I had to give an answer now, I say one and done for New York.  Fortunately, there are still 9 days and a lot of hockey left to be played.

 

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