It seems like it has been a month since the New York Rangers defeated the rival Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday. However, with the two days off, it has only helped to build the hype for tonight's match-up with the Tampa Bay Lightning, in which the Blueshirts can gain some serious ground in the standings. With the Bruins, Flyers, and Thrashers all losing last night as detailed in Jim's last post, the opportunity could not be better for the Rangers right now and they need to take advantage of that.
Anyway, below I shared some links with you to get you ready for tonight's contest.
First, Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants reflects on how fortunate the Rangers were that everything that needed to happen for them last night actually did.
So just how crazy was it that everything that needed to happen last night for the Rangers actually did happen? Well consider…
...The Islanders snapped a 15-game losing streak against the Flyers to finally beat Philadelphia, 6-4.
...Matt Bradley snapped a 25-game streak without a goal for the winner as the Capitals edged the Thrashers, 2-1.
...Ex-Devils backup Scott Clemmensen stopped 36 shots for his fifth career shutout as the Panthers won in Boston, 1-0.
Of course, all of this means absolutely zilch if the Rangers - who now have a game in hand on the Flyers, Canadiens and Bruins and two in hand on the Thrashers - can’t capitalize tonight at Tampa Bay. The Lightning are returning from a 2-2-0 road trip and are in a 1-4-0 slump at home.
Rick Carpiniello of Rangers Report - who will be doing an interview for my site in the next week or so - looks at how tight the standings are in the Eastern Conference, and which teams the Rangers are most likely to catch.
Philly is the obvious choice to be caught, with Brian Bush-league in goal—did you see him against the Isles last night?—and the Flyers playing like carcillo, and that home-and-home with the Rangers next weekend.
But Boston can’t score, Atlanta’s just not that good and has a brutal schedule remaining. Neither, actually, is Montreal very good. And the Rangers now have a game in hand, or two, on every team they’re chasing.
They can also pretty much eliminate Tampa Bay tonight, because if the Lightning loses it can still mathematically get to 82 points, but it won’t be able to match the victory totals to get in in a tiebreaker.
Steve Zipay of Blue Notes also details the standings and looks at games tonight that will also be affecting the Blueshirts while they are battling it out with the Bolts.
The standings: Rangers in 10th, with 78; Thrashers in 9th with 80, Bruins in eighth with 82, Flyers and Montreal with 82. But the Rangers now have two games in hand on Atlanta and one on the rest of dem pretenders.
The Flyers play Montreal tomorrow as the Blueshirts face the Lightning and this two-game trip, with Florida in Sunrise on Saturday, looms even larger.