The Rangers have more lives than an alley cat. Just when we thought we were doomed after the Flyers debacle, that would cost us first place in the Atlantic Division, another chance surfaces.
So Tuesday night the Rangers have it in their hands to finally sew up the Atlantic Division Title, on the last game of the regular season. It won't be easy. Their opponents are the Ottawa Senators who are one point behind the Carolina Hurricanes for first in the Eastern Conference. So who do you think will be more motivated to come out big? A flat first period by the Rangers will leave them hoping for the double miracles on ice of both the Devils and the Flyers losing their last games of the season.
Many questions abound. Can Jagr rise to the heights one more time? Will the Prince return to the form that placed him among the top three goalies in the NHL? Can Kasparaitis tighten up a loosely knit porous defense and inject some 'smash mouth' into the game? Will the HMO line be reunited and get significant ice time? Will Sandis 'Ole' Ozolinsh be benched for this game? Will Tom Renney, who predicts a Ranger win, coach the game of his life? Can Renney coach the game of his life? All of this will be answered in a sixty minute game that could be the most significant, and most exciting, game since June 14, 1994.
A Ranger win and wins by the Devils and Flyers gives the Rangers the Atlantic Division Title and a seven game series against the Flyers starting at the Garden on Friday. It will be the same scenario if all three teams lose. A Ranger win and a loss by either the Devils or the Flyers will match the Rangers against the loser staring on Friday. If the Rangers get an OT or shootout loss and the Devils and Flyers both win the Devils win the division and play the Rangers starting Friday in New Jersey. The Rangers will finish sixth in this scenario because both the Devils and Flyers will have more wins than the Rangers which is the first tie breaker when all teams have the same amount of points. An OT or shootout loss only helps the Rangers if both the Devils and Flyers lose either in regulation, OT or a shootout. There are more scenarios but the basic idea is that this is a must win for the Rangers.
Are the Rangers ready? Who knows, I don't. Too many years of great expectations, false hopes and dismal results. Can a team that was embarrassed by the Islanders, Penguins and Flyers rise up to beat one of the best teams in the NHL? On paper it doesn't look good. We looked good on paper against the Islanders and Penguins and look what happened there. However, the game is played on the ice. Remember, the Rangers completely outplayed the Senators in the Garden on February 8th, winning 6-1. The Rangers then swept Toronto in a home and home and went roaring into the Olympics.
Since the return from the Olympics the Rangers have been below average with a 9-10-1-3 record, so it's a wonder that they have a one game shot to win the Atlantic Division. But no more looking back it's on to the future with the hope that our Prince will once again rise to the occasion that he so often has during a magnificent season. This has been an exciting year for these born again Rangers and a win on Tuesday would put an exclamation point on this season.
ICINGS: Joe Thornton leads Jaromir Jagr by three points, for the scoring race, going into the final games of the season. San Jose hosts the LA Kings tonight. Cheechoo, also of San Jose, leads Jagr in the goal scoring race 56-54. Neither of these developments take anything away from Jagr's wonderful Ranger record breaking season. Jagr should still win the Hart MVP award for bringing a team, picked for 30th by most of the so called experts, to one game away from the Atlantic Division Title.
If you read the entire statistical analysis: "How much was that hit worth?" by Gabriel Desjardins of Protrade.com you come to these conclusions regarding blocking shots in the NHL:
we can see that the value of a blocked shot is actually quite positive...
we would see that blocking a shot is a very positive event relative to allowing a shot on goal.
That's one tangible reason Jed Ortmeyer is an important asset to this team. Maybe if Protrade gets its NHL athlete market going Poti and "Ole!" Ozolinsh can at least be sold figuratively to other unsuspecting rubes from the big city.
update: interesting tidbit from offwing opinion-
If Jagr wins either the Art Ross, Hart or Conn Smythe, he gets an extra year added to the 7-year, $77 million deal, which the Caps are 50 percent on the hook for...
A Jagr explosion might just win him the Art Ross and the Richard. Get his team two points, they clinch the Atlantic Division. Do it all in one night, and you might well be able to stop the Thornton surge for the Hart.
Thanks Ted, sometimes even a