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New York Rangers Weekend In Review

Notes from the hockey this weekend.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

- I missed most of last night's game live, between returning home from Easter and watching my Quinnipiac Bobcats clinch a date with Boston College in the Frozen Four of the NCAA Hockey Tournament. I watched some highlights and saw enough of the third period and overtime of the Rangers game to come up with some thoughts from Sunday night, but figured an overview of the weekend was more appropriate.

- The Rangers have, at the very least, put a little more space between themselves and a date with Washington or a spot out of the playoffs. With a three-point lead over the Penguins (Pittsburgh has a game in hand) and a six-point lead over the Islanders (they have two games in hand) the Rangers seem at least secured in a first round matchup with the Penguins. All that seems to be on the table now -- unless the Islanders make a run -- is home ice advantage.

- With that being said, slipping to the first wild card spot wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world. I think the Rangers do matchup well against Florida or even Tampa Bay; especially if Anton Stralman is out long term.

- Starting with Montreal: That's what the Rangers can look like, although it's worth noting they played a pretty bad team. The power play was humming, the Rangers did great work offensively and they were able to out-run their defensive mistakes. Not a perfect game by any means, but it really shows you what the Rangers CAN be if they are firing on all cylinders in the playoffs.

- That is to say, the Rangers are deep enough at forward that they can smooth over the mistakes on defense Henrik Lundqvist doesn't erase. The problem is those moments have been too far and few between of late. As a perfect example: The Rangers successfully did this in Montreal and then 24 hours later (granted against a better team) could not do it against the Penguins. The biggest issue? The Rangers won't play Montreal in the playoffs.

- Pittsburgh isn't as depleted as they were last year, but aside from their top heavy offense there's not a ton of depth in the bottom six. However, Carl Hagelin really changes the way the team is deployed -- and it's something of a matchup nightmare for the Rangers. When Pittsburgh needed offense, Hagelin was thrown up into the top line to add some speed and an offensive punch. When Mike Sullivan needed his top guys to take a breather, he slid Hagelin down the lineup to become a forecheck monster. He works well with Phil Kessel, too.

- It's really strange that when he's being played properly and given an opportunity to flourish Kevin Hayes looks really good. He was pretty dominant against Pittsburgh, looked good against Montreal and had a helper on both Eric Staal goals on Sunday. Maybe, you know, he shouldn't worry about his life every game. And maybe, just maybe, the media members who have no problem putting his head on a stick should look at the bigger picture, or maybe re-evaluate how they perceive the game itself.

- His success means Hayes survives a healthy scratch for at least another game while Oscar Lindberg continues to rot in the press box. Alain Vigneault seems to believe he's actually got a fourth line to rival the 2014 group this year, and he's been telling the world how Tanner Glass is the only guy who has been good enough all year down there. Not that he was particularly bad these past two games, but watching Hayes do what he did on Sunday reinforces the point that whoever is sitting for Glass (be it Lindberg or Hayes) is a better player than the guy who gets the leash that never ends. And the Rangers are a worse team without them in the lineup.

- Not that he would have made all that much of a difference, but in a one-goal loss wouldn't you have rather give the reps Glass got to Lindberg? Maybe he scores a goal or creates a goal and the Ranger win. Maybe he doesn't. Either way I'd rather have a better player on the ice. Especially in the playoffs when you win and lose on such a fine edge.

- The Rangers still have a lot of questions they need to answer. While they were good in Montreal, from a possession standpoint the Rangers are losing the battle (handily) against all the good teams they face. This final stretch of the year is no cakewalk but when Dan Girardi/Marc Staal are expected to be top defenders and the fourth line is expected to be the 2014 second coming I don't see a lot here to make the Rangers do damage in the playoffs.