The New York Rangers are opening their season up with a tough road test agains the Boston Bruins. This is a huge test for a lot of different reasons, but mainly because you simply don't know how many wins and how many points you're going to need to make the playoffs in this shortened season. So a slump here or there might be the difference between the playoffs and the golf course.
For the Rangers, it's a back-to-back test on the road against the Bruins before taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins at home.
Let's make something clear: Getting off to a quick start would be really nice, but it's not vital. I've seen a lot of people saying an early losing streak might kill a team's hopes, but I don't know how much of that I believe. Sure, a 1-8 start would probably do serious damage, but then again the Columbus Blue Jackets couldn't climb out of that hole in 82 games last year, so the point is kind of moot.
The Rangers don't have to do much to win this season, aside from play their game. The talent is there, the ideology is there and the desire is there. They have the right players in the right places and they're ready to go. But remember, anything can happen this year. It's too small a sample size to assume the best teams will eventually float to the top. Would I be shocked if the Rangers missed the playoffs? Probably not. And that's not because I don't think they're a good team (I think the Rangers are true Stanley Cup contenders this year) but because anything can happen in 48 games.
Which is why tonight's tilt is so important. Will a loss end the Rangers' playoff hopes? No. Will a win guarantee them? No. But four points through this weekend would go a long way to help shake the rust off from this lockout. No team is going to be playing perfect hockey, so the Rangers just have to be the best team on any given night.
That shouldn't be too hard with guys like Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Brad Richards and Ryan McDonagh manning the main posts for the Rangers. But, then again, injuries will be a major concern in a season like this, so anything can happen.
As for tonight? The Rangers just need to focus on their game. They were good at that last year. Let's see if we see it again.
We'll have much more throughout the day, but for now, thoughts guys?