New York Rangers, Mats Zuccarello
Photo by Bergen Record

The New York Rangers defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets to finally clinch a berth in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

By Chris Wengert

The New York Rangers must be fans of the ole’ melodrama, because instead of making their lives (and the lives of their fans) easy, they decided to wait until their third opportunity to clinch a playoff berth.

But hey, the Rangers are in the tournament and that’s what matters.

For the most part, and especially for the first two periods, the Rangers played a much more sound game than they did against Carolina and Buffalo.

They were smart with the puck, defensive coverage was better, and Chris Kreider is starting to consistently look like the Chris Kreider from two years ago.

I’ve said throughout this season that if the Rangers could find a way to jump start both Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes it would go along way to increasing their offensive production.

And while Kevin Hayes is not the force he was last season, both player certainly have improved over the past month.

Hayes may not be scoring as much as we would like, but he is making plays and his line is consistently one of the stronger lines for the Rangers.

But going back to Kreider for a moment, how about that goal? The way drove to the net and stayed with the puck is exactly what we have been waiting to see all season.

Henrik Lundqvist had a solid comeback game as well. While many expected Alain Vigneault to give Hank a break against a wilting Columbus team, giving him the start ended up being the best thing for him.

While the Rangers were certainly better defensively, they weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

Sometimes I think people take the word “defense” much too literally, as defense should refer to all five of the players who are on the ice.

Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are usually the go to players when it comes to defensive criticism and while that criticism has been warranted at times throughout the season (ok, in a lot of situations), last night was probably Staal’s strongest game of the season.

But team defense refers to all players, and Rick Nash was that one forward who forgot to cover his man on the Nick Foligno goal.

Goals like these are infuriating too, because they’re the result of mental lapose rather than being outplayed by the opposition.

And that’s exactly what we have seen all too often this season isn’t it? Mental lapses.

In this case Rick Nash quite literally allows Foligno to stand right in front of Hank, which eventually leads to his tip in.

Defense refers to all five players on the ice, not just the two defenseman, who seem to bare the responsibility whenever coverage breaks down in the Rangers’ zone.

But not all of Rangers’ defenseman are off of the hook, and we’re looking at you Kevin Klein.

Klein has been vitally important to the Rangers success this year, but he has also been burned on a few occasions lately.

“What a great effort there by Klein”? Yeah, I think not.

Foligno nets his 11th of the season on a play where he made Klein look like a pole on a ski course.

A great individual effort by Foligno? Yes, but there are going to be plenty of strong efforts in the playoffs and Klein will need to tighten the screws on these plays moving forward.

You don’t need me to tell you this, but a Ryan McDonagh injury would be a bad thing right about now.

For this Rangers team, health is of the utmost importance. With Dylan McIlrath has enjoyed some quality pine lately and you have to worried about his “readiness”, as AV calls it.

Dan Boyle is a paradox.

We all know that he is not the strongest defensive player on the team, but then he will score an important goal that makes it hard to argue with AV’s decisions to start him over McIlrath.

McIlrath has deserved to start over Boyle on more than a few occasions, but if Boyle continues to produce then I doubt AV will take him out of the lineup.

Well fans, the Rangers are going to the playoffs which means stress, anxiety, and hopefully some memorable moments.

In the coming days we’ll have a playoff preview as well as a 1994 Rangers trivia contest with prizes, so be on the look out.

NEXT: Rangers Clinch Playoffs With 4-2 Victory In Columbus (Highlights)


I've been a die hard Rangers and Giants fan for as long as I can remember. I enjoy sharing opinions, and hearing from fans that love their teams just as much as I do. Henrik Lundqvist makes all of us look like mere mortals. E-mail me at: