The New York Rangers currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division. While this might seem like a good spot for the Rangers to be in, they currently sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, something that might unnerve both the team and its fans, knowing that only four points separate the Rangers from 12th place in the conference.
With that being said, the Rangers’ game tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks becomes even more important than it already was as the Rangers desperately need a win tonight at home.
The Blackhawks are one of the league’s best teams on offense, but something that might hurt them is the short turnover from the Olympics. Player like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marcus Kruger, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya all returned recently after playing in the gold medal game, while Patrick Kane and Michal Rozsival recently returned after being knocked out of the tournament without a medal.
The Rangers also having Olympians returning might also put them at a slight disadvantage, but head coach Alain Vigneault has decided to start goalie Cam Talbot in place of Henrik Lundqvist to minimize it. With the Rangers having home ice advantage as well as having less of their players fatigued from international play, they stand a good chance against the Blackhawks.
If the Rangers were to win tonight, that would give them two more points and move them within one point of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and two points of the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers would ideally want to climb up the standings as high as they can, while also trying to avoid a first-round matchup with a division rival like the Pittsburgh Penguins or Philadelphia Flyers.
That kind of motivation should be enough to see the Rangers leave everything on the ice and give one of their best efforts of the season. With so much on the line in terms of the playoff picture, the Rangers cannot afford to take a night off and receive a loss.
The Rangers need to treat every game from here on out like a Game 7 of a playoff series. Every game from here to the end of the season is more important than the game before it, and the Rangers need to win as many games as they can starting tonight.