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the ship be sinking

The Rangers Are All But Finished Now

We're not sure which was more depressing: watching the Rangers' playoff hopes all but evaporate in Boston yesterday, or reading this post on the Times' Slap Shot blog about Don Maloney, the former assistant general manager of the Rangers and current G.M. of the Coyotes, who has Phoenix tied for the most points in the Western Conference.

Yesterday's 2–1 loss dropped the Rangers five points behind Boston and four behind Atlanta — something pretty close to a knockout blow for a team hoping to sneak into the playoffs as the eighth seed. Mathematically, they'll gasp for air for a little while longer, but with just ten games to go, their chances hinged on taking two points from yesterday's game.

After a penalty-heavy first period, the Rangers got their best chance at 8:30 of the second, when Zdeno Chara was whistled for a high stick on Marian Gaborik and given a double-minor. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say the season depended on the four-minute power play that ensued. The Bruins rank last in all of hockey in goals scored, and a tally (or two) with the man advantage could have given the Blueshirts the confidence that John Tortorella admitted they were lacking during his NBC interview from the bench.

But they came up empty, and Boston would score four minutes later to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish. As usual, no single facet of the game was to blame: The power play was ineffective, but Olli Jokinen was dreadful, and the defense was out of position on Boston's first goal. It's enough to make you wonder how this team got so close to a playoff berth in the first place.

In theory, missing the playoffs for the first time since the lockout would give the Garden a chance to reevaluate the direction of this team. Judging by the "Fire Sather" chants emanating from the blue seats in recent weeks, a change at general manager would be a popular start. But we're not holding our breath. Meanwhile, Glen Sather's protégé is cruising into the playoffs in Phoenix, of all places. At least you can watch Wednesday's game in 3-D. That should make everything all better.

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Photo: Michael Dwyer/AP