Around this time of season, every game you play is important. Not that they're not important earlier in the season. But results of games in March and April are magnified as the playoff picture becomes clearer. And they're even bigger when you play a team that you're fighting against for a coveted playoff spot. Going into tonight, here's the Rangers W-L records against their playoff competition:
5 - Washington Capitals 3-1
6 - Montreal Canadiens 0-3
8 - Carolina Hurricanes 2-2
9 - Buffalo Sabres 2-0
Tonight, the Rangers ended up being the only team in the Eastern Conference playoff race that seemed to play as if the game was not important with a huge 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. They completely didn't show up in the 1st period, and were lucky to escape being down only 1-0. And while their energy improved during the 2nd and 3rd periods, they could never overcome that one goal deficit.
To make matters worse, as I mentioned before, every other team who played tonight took care of business. Montreal, Washington and Carolina all won. The Rangers are now 8 points behind Washington for 5th and 5 points behind Montreal for 6th. Carolina is 1 point behind in 8th and Buffalo, with their win, is 3 points behind in 9th. And they ALL have at least a game at hand (Buffalo actually has 3 games at hand). With 17 games to go in the season, the Rangers have lost control of their own destiny. And while a lot can happen in these final 17 games, the way they're playing right now doesn't make me very comfortable...
Their next game is Thursday night vs Minnesota - a possible Jed Ortmeyer homecoming - where they need to win and get both points (Minnesota is in the Western Conference, so giving them a point in OT or a shootout won't matter) Time is dwindling. And so are the Rangers chances of making the playoffs.