Give the Rangers credit: Even if they don’t stay hot and sneak into the playoffs, they’ll at least draw this thing out as long as possible. (Considering they were seven points out not all that long ago, that’s something to give credit for, right?) A day after a flat performance in Buffalo that saw Henrik Lundqvist pulled in the second period, the Blueshirts bounced back last night by scoring early and often in a convincing 5–1 win over lowly Toronto that kept their playoff hopes alive.
What’s both encouraging and frustrating about the past couple of weeks is that the Rangers have been getting production from some unlikely sources — the kind of thing that could have come in handy back when Marian Gaborik was scoring every other goal for this team. Last night, Erik Christensen scored twice (and had solid chances to complete the hat trick), Aaron Voros darted off the bench to add a goal (he looked like he didn’t know how to react when he scored, slamming his stick against the boards as if he’d been given bad news), and tough-guy Brandon Prust — who’d never tallied more than five points in a season before this year — extended his unlikely point-scoring streak to four games. This isn’t the stuff of Stanley Cup contenders, but if it happened with any regularity, it’d be the stuff of a team that’s in better shape than this one is right now.
Heading into their home-and-home with Philadelphia, the Rangers still control their own destiny. It won’t be easy, though: They’ll need to beat the Flyers twice, at least once in regulation. They’re just a point behind Boston now, but the Bruins have three games remaining. (They’re also three points behind sixth-place Montreal, for what it’s worth.) Can you make up for a season of mediocrity with three weeks of spirited play? We wouldn’t have thought so, but we’ll find out for sure this weekend.