And now, the end is near for the Rangers, who close out the 2021 season on Saturday afternoon in Boston against a surging Bruins team they could not catch for the final playoff spot in the NHL’s East Division, and one that thumped them, 4-0, Thursday night at the end of an emotionally draining 48 hours.
Wednesday’s firing of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton and the fight-filled game that night against the Washington Capitals were the equivalent of the classic penultimate episode of a popular HBO series, where several main characters are killed off, leaving the final episode for tying up loose ends.
Saturday’s game in Boston would be that last episode.
There are 60 minutes (assuming no overtime) left in the season for the Rangers, who have lost five straight, and the focus now is clearly on next year. New president and GM Chris Drury has work to do in the offseason to finish up the three-year-old rebuild and make the Rangers a playoff team and a Stanley Cup contender beginning in 2021-22.
Drury’s first order of business will be to make a call on the fate of coach David Quinn, who has been behind the bench for three seasons, and done what he was hired to do as far as developing the organization’s young talent. Quinn has two seasons remaining on his contract. Does he get the chance to lead the Rangers into the next era?
As for the young players on the roster, Saturday is one last chance to leave an impression on Drury and Quinn before training camp next fall to show they should be part of the team next season. Morgan Barron, the former sixth-round draft pick who blossomed into one of the Rangers’ most prized prospects, definitely is thinking that way. Barron scored his first NHL goal in Wednesday’s game — it was slightly overshadowed by the fights and the firings — and in the four games he’s played, Barron has looked like he can be part of the Rangers’ nucleus next year and beyond.
"Obviously, coming up with only a handful of games left, I knew that it was going to be a great chance for me to kind of get acclimated, and figure out what I need to work on to be an effective player at this level, night in and night out,’’ Barron said after Thursday’s loss. "So as much you come to the rink every day and just try to compete and be ready to go in that one game, I definitely think that the whole time I've been here, whether it's in a practice, in a game, away from the rink, you're just kind of, evaluating the different steps I'm going to need to take in order to be able to make this team and play as a full-timer next year.’’