If the New York Rangers fail to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers at home tonight, Jim Dolan can forget about summer renovations to Madison Square Garden– he will have to build a completely new one.
The Rangers season has come down to these final two games, a home and home with the rival Flyers, in which the Rangers must win both in order to advance to the playoffs. Win both in regulation, and they are definitely in, and the Flyers are out. Win one in overtime, and with a Bruins loss the Rangers could still have a chance at getting in.
But to avoid all the confusion, the simple plan is to just win.
The Rangers have gone 6-1-1 in their last eight games, and normally that would be enough to propel any team into the playoffs, but all it has done is gotten the Rangers on the cusp, and the hole that they dug themselves into in the previous few months is starting to show just how bad it really was.
Attendance at the Garden for Rangers games has been depleted over the last several weeks, but tonight will be a different matter. Expect a capacity crowd that will be energetic and intense for the entire sixty minutes. It will be a playoff like atmosphere, in what will be the first real playoff game of this Rangers season.
With enough determination and relentless pursuit, the Rangers have a chance at winning both games, but it will not be easy. The Flyers expect to get their leading scorer, Jeff Carter, back from injury tonight. The only question, once again, is their goaltending.
The Rangers need to throw everything, including the kitchen sink, at Brian Boucher, It does not have to be beautiful and gift wrapped, with a pretty red bow on top. It can be pure garbage. Drive to the net, wreak havoc, and be a pain in the rear to this Flyers team that has done their share of the same.
The Flyers can afford to give away one game in this series, so I expect the Rangers to be ready, and the better team tonight. Whether or not momentum can carry over into Sunday is a different matter, because we have seen time and time again, this team under the helm of John Tortorella come out stagnant in what was going to be a very important game.
In order to win, and match wits with the Flyers, the Rangers must use the old hockey adage: “Take the shortest route to the puck, and arrive in ill-humor”. And of course, score more goals than your opponent.