Five games remain on a New York Rangers calendar — games that though meaningless to the postseason they’re now mathematically eliminated from contending for, aren’t at all meaningless to their drafting odds this June.
In conjunction with the outcome of their closest competitors near the NHL’s basement, the results of these final five contests can dramatically improve the stock of next season’s roster. That is, of course, provided the Rangers lose as many of them as possible.
Painful though it might be to suffer now, the old adage of “short-term pain for long-term gain” truly applies here this afternoon as the Blueshirts take on the Flyers in a 12:30 PM EST puck drop.
Who’s up for early afternoon hockey?
Of course, for the players on the ice, the story is exactly the opposite. Regardless of the sealed nature of their fate, many of the players — particularly the veterans — are playing to win.
”I can tell you right now, the only thing that I’m worried about is just trying to win hockey games,” Chris Kreider said following practice on Saturday. “That’s what everyone in this room should be worried about. Because we want to compete next year. Obviously we’re not in a position to make the playoffs this year, and that’s tough when you reflect back on some of the games and some of the points that we let slide. But if we’re not working toward something bigger, and we’re not learning every single game - because it can turn quick.”
And therein lies the rub. Losing does boost the Rangers’ odds of drafting the type of impact player they’re desperate for, but isn’t without consequence. In fact, continuous losing can become what Larry Brooks dubbed a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Losing can beget more losing, despite the reward of drafting high in the draft every June.
That’s an unintended pitfall of setting on this rebuilding course that New York clearly wants to avoid.
”It’s belief in what we’re trying to do here, it’s belief in each other, and these games matter. These games matter for us, because we’re trying to build toward something,” Kreider continued.
The Flyers — also mathematically eliminated from playoff contention — now stand between .500 hockey over their last two games, or the team’s first winning streak since prior to the trade deadline. Which result will prevail early this afternoon?
”Listen, I don’t care what the situation is: Winning beats losing,” head coach David Quinn said. “The postgame meal tastes better, the beer tastes better after a win. You want to win a hockey game - especially when you’re playing a divisional rival.”
In net for the Rangers is the red-hot Alexandar Georgiev, in for his second-straight start. His 44-save effort helped propel the Blueshirts to victory over St. Louis on Friday.
Please use this as your open thread for this afternoon’s game.