After a controversial hit in the closing seconds of the third period by Alex Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks on New York Rangers No. 1 defenseman Ryan McDonagh back on Apr. 1, Rangers fans everywhere gasped, fearing the worst. Fortunately the injury looked worse than it was as McDonagh is only listed as day-to-day and Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said there is even a 50-50 chance that McDonagh will be back in the Rangers’ lineup for the last game of the regular season on Saturday in Montreal.
However, since the Rangers beat the Buffalo Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers lost in regulation to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, the Rangers clinched second place in the Metropolitan Division and home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. So since the Rangers cannot move any higher or lower in the standings, there is no reason to start McDonagh in the last game of the season against the Montreal Canadiens in what would be a meaningless last game of the season for the Rangers.
As a matter of fact, not only shouldn’t McDonagh start in Montreal on Saturday, but neither should some of the Rangers’ everyday starters who could use a rest. A couple players who come to mind right away are Henrik Lundqvist, for obvious reasons, and Brad Richards, who after a great start to the season has tailed off drastically in the second half and could use an extra day of rest.
McDonagh and Lundqvist are arguably the two most important players on this Rangers’ roster, so it is extremely important that both of them be fresh, as close to 100 percent as possible and ready to go come playoff time. Basically it would make absolutely no sense to start either one of them in the last game of the 2013-14 NHL regular season.