The New York Rangers locked up a playoff berth on Thursday when Ryan Callahan's sharp-angle shot hit the back of the net and gave the Rangers a 4-3 overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. The only question from that point forward was to see where the Rangers landed in the playoffs.
The New York Islanders lost in the shootout on Friday, giving the Islanders 55 points with no games remaining. The Rangers (54 points, one game remaning) and the Ottawa Senators (54 points, two games remaining) can isolate the Islanders in 8th place if they both win.
The Rangers can still finish anywhere between 8th and 6th -- which isn't news -- but the path to sixth place is a win and the Senators losing one of their final two games. A single point by the Rangers today would guarantee the Rangers at least 7th place.
Which is where the debate comes in: Should the Rangers rest Henrik Lundqvist to try and avoid the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round? Is it worth running Lundqvist through the end of the regular season? Should the Rangers actually be trying to avoid playing the Washington Capitals -- who are by far the hottest team of the top three?
My personal opinion -- and again, this is my thought on the matter -- is that Lundqvist's health is more important than a seed. Lundqvist is the Rangers biggest weapon. He's the main reason why you can't count the Rangers out of any series, no matter who they are playing. He's the best goaltender in the NHL. He's the Rangers superhero.
Starting Martin Biron would give Lundqvist around five or six days of rest. It would help keep him fresh for the playoffs and allow him to recover from the grueling end to the season. He looked tired against the Florida Panthers. He looked tired against the Carolina Hurricanes. He still played his ass off, but he can probably use the rest.
Now, granted, Lundqvist will get some rest even if he starts against the Devils. He hasn't played since Thursday, and there will be a few games between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs. I still don't think it's worth the risk. Well, it's not really a risk, but you get my point. I don't think it's worth playing Lundqvist. The Devils aren't exactly throwing out their A-Squad either.
I think you start Biron. I think you don't risk Lundqvist being tired for the start of the playoffs.
However, I also think the Rangers would like to avoid the Penguins. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I would go to war with this team against anybody.
So to me it's not worth Lundqvist.