Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rangers rebound to beat Toronto - and still control their playoff destiny

Eat, drink, and be merry Ranger fans - for tomorrow our season may die. But for one more night the Rangers rose to the challenge and gave it everything they had.

Needing points last night to have any realistic shot at sneaking in to the playoffs - the Rangers jumped all over Toronto last night at the Garden. They outshot the Maple Leafs 12-1 in the early going, scored 21 seconds in, led 3-0 and never looked back.

No matter how this season turns out - our Rangers have showed class and determination down the stretch. They have gone 6-1-1 in their last 8 games and still control their playoff destiny. (See below for the complete playoff rundown).

One thing about John Tortorella - he may be a knucklehead at times (can you imagine if an NFL coach said he never looks at game films?) but he has figured out something important. If the whole team gets mad at the coach - it unites them and builds team spirit. Tortorella ticked off his goaltender by embarrassing him on Tuesday. Then he called out Christensen in front of the team. And Christensen responded with two goals - the first of which was just 21 seconds into the game. And Hank bounced back nicely with a solid effort in net.

The team may not like Tortorella - but John is using that to his advantage.

The Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist - responding to a rare benching Wednesday - made 26 saves on 27 shots - and was the difference last night. Toronto's Gustavsson - sometimes seemingly on his own - stopped 27 of 32.

Special Teams: Both teams were 0 for 4 on the powerplay.

The New Veteran Rangers - Christensen played like the first line center he (technically) is - scoring twice in the first period. Gaborik had an assist on the night. Jokinen could not score on a breakaway - but did score in the 3rd period and had an assist in the first. Prospal had a goal as well.

Your Returning Rangers: Aaron Voros had the last goal of the night. Dubinsky had two assists in the first period. Rozsival had an assist.

The Kid Rangers - Prust never sleeps! Another assist for the feisty hard working Ranger. Anisimov - who is finally waking up near the end of his rookie season - got an assist as well. And Parenteau had an assist.

Defense on Offense? One assist.

In conclusion: Let's enjoy this - because we've still got a steep hill to climb this weekend to get to the dance.
Next Up: The home and home death match with Philly starts Friday night.
Where we stand. Take a deep breath and get comfortable - this will take a little explaining. After playing 80 games of an 82 game season we are the only team left in the National Hockey league that is (1) not currently in a playoff slot but (2) still mathematically alive.

It comes down to the Canadiens, the Bruins, the Flyers and us. Everyone else has clinched or been eliminated.

The Bruins are one point ahead of us with a game at hand. But we hold the tie breaker over them (most wins). Their remaining games are the Sabres (who they have played tough), the Panthers, and the Capitals. So if they get no points in three games, we need one more point to catch them. If they get 1 point, we'll need 2 - and so on.

The Canadiens are most probably out of reach.

The Flyers are 2 points up on us with 2 games left - both against us. (I'm still really upset that they beat the Red Wings on Sunday - this would be so much easier if they hadn't.). So to catch the Flyers we need to beat them twice - with at least one of those wins happening in regulation. Of course, if we do that, we'll have a good chance of passing the Bruins also.

So we stand in 9th place - two games to go - and totally in charge of our own destiny. Just win and we're in.


A special shout-out to BlueShirt Brothers pal Aviva C. who attended her first hockey game last night. Wecome aboard Aviva - and thanks - you brought the team good luck.

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