All season long the Rangers have shown us what they’re made of, what kind of heart and soul and character they have built into this identity. It’s Just Pain, they said. It’s about playing together and picking up each other, and about playing the right way, from beginning to end, and beyond, and not taking nights off and not having to explain their effort or their energy or their passion.
And as recent as a couple of games ago, there was no reason to doubt. They had, afterall, gone 8-1-1 in a 10-game stretch toward the precipice of not only a playoff berth, but even the sixth seed.
A week ago today — seven days ago — they beat Boston 1-0, a gritty, if imperfect win over an Eastern power on the road … a win that reduced their Magic Number to eight.
Well, today the Magic Number is eight, and now we need to see — again — what this team is made of. A lot has certainly changed in a week. In about 27 horrible hours in Buffalo and Uniondale, to be exact.
So they get to practice and travel today and watch the virtual scoreboards as Montreal plays at the Devils, as Carolina plays at the Islanders, and as Buffalo plays at Washington tonight.
Then they go out to begin the four games for which they will be remembered this season. I know, this season shouldn’t be about making or missing the playoffs, or winning a round or even two. This season is about identity and development and learning and building something.
But with four games left, nobody wants to look at that bright side. Not when the Rangers were thisclose last week. So the Rangers go to Philly, to play the Eastern leader, albeit the struggling Eastern leader tomorrow afternoon, then come home to see Boston again Monday to start the three-game homestand that will close the season — Atlanta in town Thursday, the still-barely-breathing Devils Saturday.
The Rangers’ season ended in a matinee in Philly last year. It could either be revived or take a critical blow in a matinee in Philly again this year.
We shall see. We shall find out a lot about this team. About what’s ticking inside.
The next two games are NBC/Versus games, Edzos. So beware and be afraid. Hopefully we’ll get a few Sid The Skid Crosby updates, too.
My goodness, I completely forgot my annual April Fools Day mention of Phil Esposito/Michel Bergeron … when the Rangers GM Espo, his team comfortably in a playoff berth but stumbling down the stretch, fired coach Bergeron with two games remaining on April 1, 1989 in Pittsburgh, and many thought the announcement was indeed an April Fools joke. The Rangers lost that day in Pitt, came home to lose the finale to the Islanders, then got swept by the Penguins in the first round, as Espo the coach went through John Vanbiesbrouck and Bob Froese in the first three games, then summoned Mike Richter to make his NHL debut in Game 4. Espo was fired and replaced by Neil Smith that spring.