So, it’s come to this for the New York Rangers.
In this critical stretch of their season, with 12-of-13 games at home, they have won only three and earned points in only five. With only two games remaining during the stretch, it’s possible that the Rangers can finish with only eight points out of a possible 26. There are two remaining, and both are absolute must-wins.
Fortunately for them, they play in the awful Metropolitan Division and sit only three points out of a playoff spot. The damage, however, has already been done. With a brutal January schedule forthcoming, the Rangers have already messed up their chance to establish themselves as a legitimate contender. They have played some of their worst hockey of the season, and there is little to no evidence to suggest that the Rangers will break out of their funk any time soon.
Even worse for the Rangers, their next two opponents are difficult draws. Sunday night, they play the Minnesota Wild, who stand at eighth place in the Western Conference. Monday night, they finish their homestand against the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that gave the Rangers fits last season.
One would think that the Rangers’ team would sense some urgency and realize the importance of these two gamer. However, there is so much dysfunction, and possibly indifference, within that locker room at the moment, and you have to wonder if any motivation creeps into their minds.
The struggling Henrik Lundqvist will get a “mental break,” according to head coach Alain Vigneault, therefore Cam Talbot will start these two games. It is almost unfair to say that Talbot needs to carry the Rangers to victory, but the way the team’s top players are playing right now, namely Rick Nash and Brad Richards, almost mandates it. For the Rangers to have a chance, Talbot needs to be the guy that Lundqvist has not been recently, and that is the team’s best player on the ice.
Should the Rangers fail to win the next two games, it is darn close to panic time on Broadway. If there was ever a time for the Rangers to right the ship and prove they are playoff-worthy, it is now.