NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 21: Stu Bickel #41 of the New York Rangers hits Jan Mursak #39 of the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden on March 21, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
I suppose it is only fitting that the New York Rangers have an opportunity to clinch the division, and thus the top seed in the conference, against a divisional opponent. Tonight, the Rangers will take on the Philadelphia Flyers, needing just a single point to clinch the No. 1 seed.
The Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins have been in the spotlight recently after the two teams exchanged blows a few days ago which even had the coaching staffs involved.
And that incident is a perfect example of why the Rangers need to clinch the top seed. If the Rangers earn a point tonight it would guarantee a 4 vs. 5 matchup between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Two teams who hate each other. Two teams who want to kill each other. Two talented teams who can both win the series without it being much of a shock.
Join me after the jump for more.If you asked John Tortorella (or any of the players for that matter) about who they would rather face in the playoffs, they will tell you it doesn't matter. In theory, they're right, you have to beat the best to be the best. In reality, however, timing can be everything. If the Rangers manage to avoid a divisional matchup in the first round, it's more than likely they will find themselves taking on a divisional foe in the second round of the playoffs.
Wouldn't you rather take on Philadelphia or Pittsburgh in the second round after the two teams have gone at it over the course of a seven-game series?
Forget wanting to avoid teams in the playoffs. Stanley Cup contenders don't have that luxury; you're going to run into someone good eventually. But there is also no doubting that the Penguins and Flyers would do a number on each other in the playoffs. That only benefits New York.
The Rangers will take on a tough opponent if they earn the No. 1 seed regardless. Both teams fighting for the final playoff spot in the East are doing exactly that, fighting. But it would certainly help if the Rangers didn't have to fight through Philadelphia or Pittsburgh until after the two have had at each other.