The Final Stretch
The hockey scheduling gods have done the New York Rangers a favor, giving them an easy schedule at a crucial time in the hunt for a postseason spot. The Broadway Blue Shirts, with three games left, will take on Florida, Carolina and New Jersey, three teams that have already been eliminated from the playoffs.
The Rangers are in the 8th spot of the Eastern Conference with the Winnipeg Jets three points behind them the final week of the season, but Captain Ryan Callahan refuses to look in the rear view mirror.
“We are trying to climb in the standings,” Callahan said. “We aren’t looking behind us.”
New York is tied with Ottawa on points, but the Senators have the 7th seed because of a tie-breaker and the Canadian squad has a game in hand.
The Rangers are coming off of a 4-1 thrashing of New Jersey on Sunday. The game had a lot of positives for New York, including two beautiful assists from Brad Richards.
The 32 year old has struggled at times during the year, but he had arguably his best week of the season, including a hat trick at Buffalo last Friday.
“I struggle with frustration sometimes,” Richards said. “[But] when you get a few bounces, you don't go home frustrated, you wake up a little more positive, and you go to work in a better frame of mind… that's kind of what happened this week."
The experience Brad Richards brings to the frozen pond should be a much needed bonus with the postseason just around the corner.
The win on Sunday has given New York a three game win streak heading into the game against the Florida Panthers.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said the whole team has stepped up the past few games.
"We're doing a lot of good things, all the small details in the game, and that's why we're scoring more,” Lundqvist said. “You can tell guys are making great plays right now, and it all starts with confidence."
Confidence has been the key word the past few games, as defenseman Ryan McDonagh echoed his net minder’s remarks.
“We just want to continue to keep building off these wins every night, and try and play close to 60 minute games and be strong in all areas,” McDonagh said. “We've been able to gain confidence this last stretch of games, and it's helping us get closer to that."
The Rangers need to continue improving if they want to have any success this postseason. The squad will most likely face Pittsburgh, Boston, or Montreal, and the Blue Shirts are a combined 3-7-1 against those teams.