The New York Rangers have hit the proverbial wall in their attempt to make a playoff push, but it’s far from over.
Back-to-back losses to the Philadelphia Flyers this past weekend put the breaks on a hard playoffs charge by the New York Rangers.
It’s not over yet, Blueshirt fans.
The Rangers had been on fire heading into a pivotal weekend with two games against the Flyers. When Friday’s night game began in Philadelphia, the Blueshirts had an 11-3 record in February. The Rangers were not only trying to grab the wild card spot but were also looking a the possibility of being within one point of the then third-place Flyers by Sunday night.
Instead, the team sputtered into a two-game losing streak while losing Chris Kreider to a fractured foot.
Injuries Off The Ice Dictate Losses On The Ice
Injuries are a part of every game, but some are hard to overcome. Along with the Kreider injury, Igor Shesterkin fractured a rib in a freak car accident and will be out of the lineup until he heals. Pavel Buchnevich was also in the same car accident and though uninjured, he has yet to seem himself on the ice following the accident.
Teams always need to have depth and the Rangers are no different. With that, it’s hard to continue to find ways to win when two starters are out of the lineup. When the injuries befall the No. 1 goalie and a top-tier forward, winning becomes even harder.
All is not lost Rangers fans. After all, there are still 17 games are remaining on the schedule—a possible 34 points are there for the taking. The Rangers are four points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final spot in the Eastern Conference. It’s also worth noting that the Blueshirts have two games in hand on the Blue Jackets. This chase is far from over.
Head coach David Quinn and his club need to put the weekend behind them. This team has handled adversity all season and is capable of refocusing on the postseason.
March Will Be Make-Or-Break Month
The month of March will be as crazy as February. The team will play 15 games (including Sundays 5-3 loss to the Flyers) in 31 days. They will definitely be without Kreider and most likely without Shesterkin for a least the first three weeks of March.
To add more drama to the situation, the organization felt it was necessary to have two of their current players eligible for the AHL Playoffs in the event the Rangers were eliminated for the playoffs. They officially sent Brett Howden and Julien Gauthier to the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack before recalling them on the same day.
They used two of the last four AHL call-ups available to them. Now with only two recalls remaining, the club will have to go with the players they have on the roster instead of calling up possibly Vinni Lettieri or Vitaly Kravtsov.
The Rangers can’t replace a player like Kreider, but they could have used the offensive production from one of these players. For now, the team will stand pat and hope their top players can keep the team above water.
Those players, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin have the skill to put pressure on the clubs ahead of the Rangers. The two forwards are the scoring leaders with plenty of experience and enough poise to continue carrying the load.
The fans and the team have been waiting to play meaningful games in the last month of the season for years.
There are 17 games to find a way to end a playoff absence. A season of learning, developing, and molding itself into a winning hockey team will rely on a shorthanded roster to finish the job.
If you would have said the Rangers would be so close to a playoff spot at the beginning of the season, most would have thought it was impossible.
Now it is a reality.