It is all or nothing this afternoon at the Wachovia Center for the New York Rangers. They need a win and they need two points, because there is no back-up plan or safety net that is going to support them if they lose this game. They were faced with this situation on Friday against the Flyers, and were able to pull out a 4-3 victory that saw them live another day. Now, in the second half of the home-and-home, in Game 82 of the regular season, they have the opportunity to clinch a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. All they have to do is win.
The Philadelphia Flyers are also in the same situation as their rivals right now. Both clubs are at 86 points, and as I predicted a few weeks back, the magic number will be 88. Last year’s eighth place cutoff was 95, but with a weak Eastern Conference this time around, both the Flyers and Rangers have the chance to sneak in despite a rather unsuccessful season.
Now let’s be honest here. The Flyers, as a whole, are a much better hockey team than our Blueshirts. They have a more dangerous top six forwards and their defense is much bigger and experienced. There are two things that the Rangers have the edge in, though. The first is obviously goaltending with Henrik Lundqvist, and the other, I feel, is momentum.
New York comes into this contest with momentum and confidence from Friday’s emotional win, not to mention the fact that all of the pressure is on Philly as they now have to pull out a win in front of their home crowd; a home crowd that will get on them quickly if they do not like what they are seeing.
Continue reading after the jump.It’s going to be an all out war with both teams equally as desperate to claim eighth. However, I think it will come down to which team better handles adversity, and which team better manages their momentum swings, as well as their opponents’. On Friday, that team was the New York Rangers. I would assume they head into Philadelphia this afternoon with the exact same mindset.
The lineup remains exactly the same for the Rangers, with the exception of Alternate Captain Ryan Callahan possibly, or likely, sitting after reaggravating a leg injury when applying a hit to Philly defenseman Chris Pronger on Friday. Head coach John Tortorella says that Ryan will be a gametime decision, and if he is unable to go, will probably be replaced with forward Brian Boyle, who has missed the last nine games, also due to a leg injury.
Look for the Blueshirts’ fourth line to take the opening faceoff today, an approach Tortorella has recently turned to in order to gain momentum right out of the gate. The fourth trio, as I expressed in yesterday’s article, has been one of the better for the Rangers throughout their recent period of success.
This is game seven. This is do or die. This, in a sense, is overtime. Winner moves on, loser goes home until next September. If the Rangers were to move on, they would face the Capitals, a re-match of last year’s quarterfinals, in the first round. But let’s get there first and then worry about the opponent. Today, it is the Philadelphia Flyers, a team that the Rangers can beat, and a team they can obliterate if they come out firing. All they need to do is win, and then this miraculous run to the playoffs is complete.