Rangers Vs. Maple Leafs: Pre-Game Notes

Grant Halverson

Some notes to get your morning started before the Rangers take on the Maple Leafs.

- The New York Rangers enter their matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs sitting in 8th place with 42 points. The Winnipeg Jets are tied with the Rangers in points, but have played two more games so the Rangers hold the winning percentage tiebreaker. The Rangers are two points behind the Islanders in 7th (with a game in hand) and two points behind the Senators in 6th (with an equal amount of games played). Toronto is six points ahead and level in games played at 5th.

- Which makes these two points (and really all two points) that much more important. The Rangers need to create a gulf between them and the other teams fighting for a playoff berth, and hurl themselves into the thicket of the 5th and 6th seed battle. They can do that with a win tonight but they would have to keep it up.

- There are nine games left in the season. My guess is if the Rangers go 5-3-1 they'll make the playoffs. That would give them 53 points. That would be a close call, though.

- I think Henrik Lundqvist gets the start tonight, simply because the Rangers need the win, but at some point Martin Biron needs to get in the net. The Rangers brought him in three years ago for a reason, and kept him last year for the same reasons. He's here to give Lundqvist breathers without the instant fear that the Rangers were going to leave two points on the table. Maybe he plays Saturday on Long Island?

- Not to look too far ahead, but how big is that game going to be?

- The Rangers power play fizzled a little against the Maple Leafs in Monday's loss. That was bound to happen, the power play was churning before that game. But right now the Rangers need to find that mojo again. You can see how it not only helped them earn leads but keep other teams down when they had those leads. It helps immensely to be dominant on the man advantage.

- I think Mats Zuccarello has played himself into a contract extension with the Rangers. I really do. Obviously there is nine games left and however many (hopefully) playoff games. But if he keeps playing like this I think it makes it impossible for the Rangers brass to send him away.

- Same thing goes for Ryane Clowe, obviously, but his contract might become a bit of an issue. He's backed off the 8-year demand - although I honestly doubt he was ever really there - but he's still going to want to get paid. How much is too much for a guy like him? Well, that's something we're going to get into whenever the season winds down. Just know he's been a big part of the Rangers success since he's gotten here.

- The Rangers offense sure has come alive post-trade. Six goals against Pittsburgh, then one against Pittsburgh again, four against Carolina and three against Toronto. Those goal totals weren't coming around that often for the Rangers before they made this move. Like I said, when you're focusing so much of your offense through one player, when he struggles, the entire team struggles.

- Carl Hagelin could use a big game tonight. And the Rangers can use him having a big game, too.

- The Rangers defense has to be better tonight, and it starts with clearing the crease in front of Lundqvist.

Thoughts?

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