As tenuous as the Rangers’ playoff outlook has appeared during the lockout-shortened season, things may start to clear up in the final seven games.
All of the team’s remaining regular season games are against teams not currently in the playoff picture including four against the Eastern conference’s three worst squads (the Flyers and Hurricanes, and the Panthers twice). They’ll also face the flailing Devils, whom have lost nine straight games.
The Rangers (21-16-4, 46 points) are certainly no lock to sweep the final nine — that includes wins over the Maple Leafs on Wednesday and Islanders on Sunday — but the light pre-playoff schedule offers the team a chance to not only sew up a postseason berth but also improve their seeding.
If the postseason began Monday, the Rangers would face the Penguins in the first round. Pittsburgh won the season series 3-1, and acquired high-level veterans at the trade deadline. It’s not a team the Rangers will want to face right away.
Ideally, the Rangers would be best served by leapfrogging the Islanders and Senators and secure the No. 6 seed. That would mean a seven-game series against the weaker Southeast Division’s champion, likely the Capitals, which currently have 48 points.
But that’s later. For now, expect coach John Tortorella to keep his team focused on the Flyers Tuesday, the Panthers on Thursday and the Sabres on Friday.