During the heat of the lockout there was an ideology that fans would be so happy the lockout was over they would forget the insanity leading up to the start of the season. I think a similar mentality applies to the New York Rangers current playoff run. (Yes, I'm aware I have brought up the lockout twice this week. I'm punishing myself. Promise.)
The Rangers will hold their destiny in their own hands regardless of what happens tonight. If they lose, and the Winnipeg Jets win, the Rangers can still win Saturday against the New Jersey Devils and clinch a playoff spot. If the Rangers lose and the Jets lose, the Rangers make the playoffs. If the Jets lose in overtime then the Rangers need to get one point over their next two games.
I've heard a lot about people fearing "backing into the playoffs" and while that's not ideal it really doesn't matter how you make the playoffs it just matters that you make them. Look at the Los Angeles Kings last year. But let's not focus on that aspect of this story until we get there.
Against the Florida Panthers the Rangers couldn't find a way to finish, the power play was awful and the Rangers weren't hungry enough. That doesn't mean they played horribly, but they obviously didn't play well enough to win since they, you know, didn't win. That can't happen tonight. The Carolina Hurricanes are out of the playoffs. They're not a great team. And if this becomes a trap game, well, there are bigger issues for the Rangers to deal with than potentially missing the playoffs.
The Rangers players have to know - and I believe they do - how important winning tonight really is. It takes all the pressure off of Saturday -- in a matchup where you know the Devils would love to return the favor of the Rangers ending their season early. It's not worth taking the risk.
The good news? The Montreal Canadiens are going to be playing lights-out to try and catch the Boston Bruins for their division crown. The Jets are playing for a playoff berth. It's not out of the realm of reality that Montreal would blow the roof off the Jets. It also wouldn't shock me if the Jets dominated the game.
My point? It's not worth putting your fate in another team's hands.
The Rangers are in if they win. So they should just win.
It's the far easier path to the playoffs.