New York, NY – With about 15 games left in the NHL season, the New York Rangers seem to be on a collision course with the Brooklyn Islanders in the first round of the playoffs. Neither team will catch the first place Capitals. And the Blueshirts, currently in second place, are eight points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in forth. But there’s still plenty to play for.
The Rangers look to be getting healthy at the right time. Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist could possibly return to the lineup this weekend. Nash has been out since mid-January with a bone bruise in his leg. He’s been skating and hopefully will be cleared for contact this weekend.
This will give Nash – which rhymes with Trash – a dozen games or so to get into a groove before he pulls his yearly disappearing act in the playoffs. The addition of Eric Staal to the Rangers squad at the trade deadline adds some depth to the lineup and should take some pressure off of Nash. Hopefully the easing of that pressure that will keep #61 productive in the postseason.
Henrik Lundqvist has been out of the lineup with neck spasms recently but is almost back to 100%. He’ll be in net for one of the Rangers’ games this weekend (Saturday in Detroit or Sunday at home vs. the Penguins) before they head west for their annual California trip next week. Yours truly will be in the LA area for the Ducks and Kings games Wednesday and Thursday. The Blueshirts will need all of the points they can get to stay ahead of the Islanders to secure home ice in the first round of the playoffs and the King will be an integral part of any success. A healthy Lundqvist will be the key to determining how many games it will take the Rangers to lose to the Capitals if they get past the Islanders.
One gets the feeling that the Rangers’ window to win the Stanley Cup slammed shut in that game 7 shutout against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Garden last year. A Stanley cup finals appearance and two eastern conference finals losses in four years is a good haul. But they bet the farm and the future on winning these past few years and the team hasn’t delivered the Cup. I fear we’re watching the start of the decline. I hope I’m wrong.
Speaking of declines, the Detroit Red Wings are clinging to a wild card slot in the Eastern Conference. They’re in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in over two decades. I guess it had to happen eventually. The Red Wings were perennial cup contenders for a long time. It’s tough to think of them as also-rans. While making sense geographically, the realignment moving the Wings to the Eastern Conference has been a tough adjustment. Now the Red Wings find themselves four points ahead of the Flyers who are on the outside looking in but who have two games in hand. It is still all to play for.
Thats it for me today. Come back tomorrow for the stylings of Junoir Blaber, who no doubt had a busy week and will tell us that in his column.