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The anatomy of the must win game

Barton Silverman/The New York Times

Barton Silverman/The New York Times

By all accounts, tonight’s game against the Islanders appears to be a must win game. After all, the Rangers sit in eighth place in the East, two points behind the Islanders with a game in hand (and if they win, the tie breaker). The Jets sit in ninth place with the same 44 points that the Rangers have, but the Jets have played two more games than the Rangers. A single point in those two games separates the Rangers from the Jets. The presence of the Jets seems less of a threat than the Islanders.

And now tonight we have the Rangers on Long Island to face the Islanders, who are 8-1-1 in their past ten games, and riding this streak to their first playoff berth since 2007. The Rangers, who are 4-1-1 in their past six, are trying to just hold on to that eighth seed. Seeding seems irrelevant at this point. The only thing that seems to matter is two points. Keep winning, and you have nothing to worry about.

But therein lies the enigma of all this. Do the Rangers absolutely need to win this game to make the playoffs? Sure, it would certainly help, and also help them avoid the dreaded eight seed and a matchup with the Penguins in the first round. But the Rangers don’t NEED to win this game to make the playoffs. They need this game to put much-needed breathing room between them and the Jets.

Even if the Rangers lose today, the Jets are idle, thus the Rangers would still remain in the eighth seed. Out of the four teams with 44-46 points, three will make the playoffs. One of Washington or Winnipeg will make it as the Southeast Division winner, and then two others. The biggest thing for the Rangers is that they have games in hand on each of those teams.

A win tonight helps the Rangers playoff chances significantly, but a loss doesn’t kill the season. We said earlier that the Rangers needed to go about 6-3-1 in their last ten games to solidify a playoff berth. They are 1-1-0 right now, and have one of the easiest schedules in the league after tonight (no games against playoff bound teams).

Is tonight a must win? No, it is not. But tonight is a probably-should-win-to-help-ourselves-out-and-keep-the-fans-from-jumping-off-a-ledge type of game.

10 Responses to “The anatomy of the must win game”

  1. The Suit says:

    The Rangers win or we riot!!!!

  2. Dave says:

    Can we riot if the Rangers win too?

    • Chris F says:

      I still feel that every game is a “must win” given the Rangers uncertain position. Granted, technically, they lose tonight and retain 8th. But it outs the Jets, a talented, streaky team which can make a quick surge, right in our heels. Losing shouldn’t be an option tonight. But, it’s gonna be one hell of a battle. Isles are playing amazing hockey right now.

    • Spozo says:

      This year the Rangers have greatly contributed to my drinking habit.

  3. Bloomer says:

    My fearless prediction….the fishsticks poop the bed tonight. :)

  4. Mr. Snrub says:

    Think sportsclubstats has our playoff chances at 86.8%. Lose and that goes down 8.2%, win and it goes up 7.6%. Something like that. Not life and death tonight, but definitely a massive swing game

  5. Walt says:

    This team has to play their collective game of the season against the Isles. We can’t take them, or any other team lightly for the rest of this season. The schedule looks easy, and that is what I fear. These guys play their best against the better teams, and lay an egg against the bottom dwellers!

    • wwpd says:

      if they are playing their best against better teams, we really do have something to fear. rangers are 3-7-1 (?) this season against montreal+pitt+boston collectively. and two of those three wins were OT/SO wins.

  6. Bloomer says:

    The team that plays with the most skeep tonight will win!

  7. sean says:

    I disagree with this post. This is definitely a must win game. To finish behind the Isles would be shameful!