With only about five games left in the season for most teams, it’s crunch time.
In the Atlantic Division the Flyers and Penguins will definitely see postseason action but the Rangers are on the borderline battling with the Hurricanes and Sabres for that last spot.
It didn’t help that the Blueshirts were unable to find the back of the net on Wednesday night again Buffalo’s 22-year old backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who stopped all 23 shots posting his first career NHL shutout. As usual, Henrik Lundqvist did his job turning away 34 shots only allowing one to get by but it was not enough as the Rangers lost two crucial points to the Sabres.
The next contest is against the Islanders, another match-up the Rangers should win. The Islanders have struggled all season and are playing for pride at this point. With only five games remaining for the Rangers, every game is huge and after the Islanders they face the Flyers, Bruins, Thrashers and Devils so the road remaining is not an easy one. Three wins should secure the Rangers a playoff birth, but that needs to start tonight.
Other than the Rangers trying to make it into the playoffs the Penguins, who are sitting pretty in the fourth spot, have a chance to bring back Sidney Crosby in the playoffs. The question is, will it be worth risking further injury?
Crosby has not played in three months and is still avoiding contact drills. It might be wise to just call this season a wash and come back strong next year. Even if he does return will he be in playoff shape to make that big a difference to a team that is already playing very good hockey? At this point, it would be a mistake for Crosby to return at this point even considering the fact that after missing three months he still leads the team in goals and total points. The addition of James Neal and Alex Kovalev should provide enough offensive firepower to eliminate an urgent need for Crosby’s return. It is tempting to jump back into the game to make a cup run but if he gets injured like this again it might mean his career and to me that is not worth it.
The Flyers continue to impress with their depth on offensive. Seven players have 40 or more points on the season and after that three more are in the mid to high 30s. It’s extremely tough to defend against a team that has this kind of explosiveness and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Philly in the finals for the second year in a row.