The Rangers host the Bruins tonight in a huge game at MSG. Here are some things to watch for.
MAGIC NUMBER FIVE: The Rangers need five points in their next three games to clinch a playoff spot, no matter what the teams around them do, and control their own destiny for the playoffs. The Rangers are currently two points ahead of Carolina for the last playoff spot in the East. Getting two points tonight would certainly be helpful for the Blueshirts in their quest to return to playoff hockey.
"We’re taking it each game at a time," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "You have to do that. We have talked about this for a number of weeks now as it has ramped up here and where we’re at in the standings so I know they look at the standings. I can sit here and tell you I don’t, but I do, but you need to take it one day at a time and that’s what we’re trying to do so we’re just concerned about this game. This is a tough game, this is a really good hockey club and this is going to be a tough game for us but I think we're re going to be ready to play."
BOSTON CLINCHED: The Bruins have already clinched their division, assuring themselves of a top-three seed in the East. They are currently four points behind Washington and Philadelphia, with a game in hand, for the top seed in the East. Having said that, does Boston perhaps give some extra rest to some of its banged-up players tonight and allow them to get healthy for the playoffs? Or do the Bruins go full-speed-ahead and try and go after that No. 1 seed? We tend to think he latter, but giving injured players some rest is never a bad idea and could help the Rangers if it happens.
For the Rangers, it's full-speed ahead. Henrik Lundqvist will make another start in net and Tortorella doesn't want his team to think about fatigue.
"At this point in the season you can’t be tired," Tortorella said. "To me, I think as a group as writers as people, I think we talk people into being tired. I think you can will yourself to get through and I think you can will yourself to be tired.
He later added: “I just think the enthusiasm and (how) this is what it’s about and what it’s for overrides that stuff and again I’m just not a big believer, especially this time of year, players getting tired. I think that can be overcome by a mind set.”
STILL NOT THERE OFFENSIVELY: While Sunday’s 3-2 win at Philadelphia might have been the biggest win of the season for the Rangers, the offense still hasn’t completely gotten back into form. The Rangers have not scored more than two goals in regulation since March 20, a streak of seven games. While you can certainly win plenty of games with two goals with Lundqvist as your goalie, taking some pressure off him down the stretch would help.
ENDING THE FUNK: Sunday's win also turned the tide after two bad losses for the Rangers. They fell to Buffalo 1-0 on March 30 and then got beat up by the Islanders, 6-3, on March 31. Tortorella thinks his team is ready for the final three games.
"We stunk in the isle, we haven't stunk much this year," Tortorella said. "We havne't gone away from who we are that much this year. I think our players know who they need to be, who they are, and do it on the ice for us to have any chance. I feel very comfortable in that these guys will be ready to play and play the right way."