The quest to make the playoffs is, for all intents and purposes, over for the Rangers.
With four games remaining, they are eight points behind the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot in the East Division, and the next point lost by the Rangers or gained by the Bruins will officially clinch the last postseason berth in the division for Boston.
The end could come Monday night if the Rangers don’t beat the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden or the Devils don’t beat the Bruins in regulation in Newark. Elimination is inevitable.
So what now?
"You’ve got Washington [Monday and Wednesday] and Boston [Thursday and Saturday],’’ Rangers coach David Quinn said Saturday after his team was shut out for the second straight game by Semyon Varlamov and the Islanders, 3-0. "Obviously, we’re playing playoff teams, and teams that have aspirations to win the Stanley Cup . . . We need to measure ourselves against that. That’s what we’re trying to get to. So we need to compete night in and night out. We need to make sure that we’re ready to go from the drop of the puck.’’
The Rangers did not appear to be ready to go in either game against the Islanders. They allowed two first-period goals in each game and allowed a goal by Anthony Beauvillier that made it 3-0 in the opening moments of the second period in each. The only difference was that Mathew Barzal tacked on an empty-net goal in Thursday’s game at the Garden to make the final score 4-0 in that one.
The Rangers entered the back-to-back set against their archrivals on a three-game winning streak and the Islanders had lost three straight (0-2-1). Had the Rangers won both games in regulation, they now would be one point behind the Islanders in the standings and the situation would be drastically different.
To be fair, they were without forward Chris Kreider for both games because of a lower-body injury. Defenseman Ryan Lindgren (upper-body injury) and forward Brett Howden (broken foot) both got hurt in the first game and were unavailable in the second.
The team called up prospects Morgan Barron and Tarmo Reunanen from AHL Hartford and both played Saturday, with Barron making his NHL debut. Kreider, Lindgren and defenseman Jacob Trouba (upper-body injury) are listed as day-to-day, and theoretically could return before the season is over.
But what would be the point?