Originally published April 28, 2013 at Inside Hockey.
In a 4-0 win over the Devils in the season finale, the Rangers ended the season on a winning note, advancing ahead of the New York Islanders in the playoff standings. The final standings will not be decided until after the Ottawa Senators vs. Boston Bruins game tonight. Sunday night’s game is a makeup game from the previously postponed game originally scheduled the day the Boston Marathon bombing occurred.
As of now, the Rangers sit in the sixth berth and will be playing against the Washington Capitals in the first round. They are the only two teams that are definite placements for the first round. As for the remainder of the Eastern Conference standings, who will be playing who will not be decided until after tonight’s game.
In Saturday’s shutout against the Devils, Rick Nash picked up two goals in the win.
“He’s been involved; he just got a little snake bitten,” coach John Tortorella said of Nash. “I’m glad for him. I think it was [his] 20th and 21st. I’m glad for him. He’s been a guy from day one that has zero maintenance to him and he’s just a pro. He has fit in very well here, I’m happy for him and he gets rewarded with a couple goals.”
Nash will be heading the playoffs for the second time in his career. The last time he saw the post-season was four years ago while he was playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team was swept in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings.
The other two Rangers goals were scored by Derek Stepan, who scored early in the first period, and Ryan Callahan, who got lucky during a Taylor Pyatt hooking penalty. With the Devils on the power play, Stepan was able to steal the puck away, send a pass across to Callahan, and bury the puck behind Johan Hedberg (through the five-hole).
Going into the post-season, this final win of the season is a good confidence builder for the team. They will need to continue to focus on how they will find ways to score goals and find wins.
The Rangers have met the Capitals only three times this season. New York won the first two games and lost in overtime on March 24th.
The Capitals were going through an unlucky losing streak during the first couple of months this season. The two Rangers wins came against that struggling period for the Capitals. Now, the Capitals have surged to the top of their division with win after win. They may be a tougher contender for the Rangers in this first round than the Capitals that New York faced earlier this season.
Moving into the post-season and reflecting on how the season has gone so far, coach Tortorella has been content with the way the Rangers have handled themselves. But there is always room for improvement.
“I am happy with the way we have handled ourselves through the whole year,” Tortorella said of the season. “Through a year, we have been inconsistent, but I think we made some big plays, [and won] some big games to keep us afloat during the tough times. The past four or five weeks here, it’s just one day at a time, and [we] just went about out business.
“I’m concerned with the lineup a little bit, with the injuries we have right now, I’m hoping some guys get healthy, but we have found ways to win. That’s what it is about, just find a way to get points and they did that with more consistency and sustaining more within a game the last four or five weeks.”
The playoffs begin April 30th.