I am not among all of the doomsayers who are bitching, moaning and crying about the current state of the New York Rangers. Do I think they can do better? Oh yeah. Do I think they can play worse? Sadly? Yeah.
Unfortunately I think that playing this way, or even just a little bit better will not be enough for the Rangers. The signs are saying that unless they step up now, they will fall by the wayside in the Atlantic Division.
What signs, you may ask? First off, the standings:
New Jersey Devils - 51 pts after 42 games
Pittsburgh Penguins - 50 pts after 42 games
Philadelphia Flyers - 46 pts after 40 games
New York Islanders - 45 pts after 42 games
New York Rangers - 45 pts after 43 games
So everyone has at least one game in hand on the Rangers and the Blueshirts are in the basement. Nice. Plus, remember that the division winners get automatic bids in the playoffs so its entirely likely that the winner of the lousy Southeast division will make the playoffs while the Atlantic bottom-dweller will be playing golf despite having more points (Right now Carolina has just three more points than us).
Now to the other big signs (and the title of this blog), the Rangers really need to start keeping up with the Joneses or else. Everyone in the Atlantic, outside of the Rangers, have something going for them. A team-by-team blow-by-blow from top to bottom:
New Jersey - Patrik Elias has seven points in his last six games. If he is finally getting over his hepatitis then the Devils may actually have something ... oh yeah, and Marty Brodeur has six wins in his last seven games. Sonofabitch.
Pittsburgh - Ty Conklin, who lost the Stanley Cup for Edmonton against Carolina, is 8-0. Ty Conklin. I mean, c'mon ... Ty Conklin? And Cindy has 16 points in his last nine games and won her first fight, all while being a sexy bitch. He may be more well-rounded than Gretz and the Pens around him could grow into a stable of studs a la the young Oilers. They could be scary, if they ever get themselves a Grant Fuhr, or even an Andy Moog.
Philadelphia - The Flyers will be getting three veteran players and one motivated punk back soon: Simon Gagne (concussion), Jason Smith (leg injury), Sami Kapanen (facial lacerations) and Scottie Upshall (sprained ankle - but that is him getting kicked in the crotch). And Philly is 5-1 in their last six games. Nice.
Islanders - 5-2-3 streak, Ted Nolan still coaching, and superstud Kyle Okposo getting a taste of the pros in Bridgeport (and likely the Mausoleum before long).
Rangers - Um, Marty Straka with a concussion, Sean Avery possibly for the season, Tom Renney missing a clue and and Jaromir Jagr missing a heart. Not looking too good.
So unless the Rangers can pull something out of their collective asses, I mean hats, I mean helmets, then all that money I have saved for playoff tickets will go to waste or to our exhibition game in Sweden, but I am not ready to start looking forward to next season just yet ... are you? And a better question, are the Rangers?