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NHL Playoff Picture: Rangers Playoff Hopes Spiraling Away

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Walking up to the All-Star break you would have assumed that the Rangers were a shoe-in to making the playoffs. In fact, the Rangers were actually on pace to finish the season with a whopping 98 points.

Today, it's a much different story.

With the Rangers 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres last night, and with the trading deadline in the rear view mirror, it seems as though the Rangers had lost their early season magic.

Here is a look at the playoff picture, as it stands today. (Big thanks to Jesse Spector who puts this on his blog daily):

5. Washington - 78 points (18 games left) - won 2-1 (OT) vs. NYI
6. Montreal - 75 points (18 games left) - won 3-1 at ATL
7. Rangers - 70 points (17 games left) - lost 3-2 vs. BUF
8. Carolina - 69 points (18 games left) - won 2-1 vs. FLA
* * *
9. Buffalo - 67 points (20 games left) - won 3-2 at Rangers
10. Toronto - 63 points (19 games left)
11. Atlanta - 63 points (18 games left) - lost 3-1 vs. MTL

You don't need to be a scientist to see the Rangers problems here. It's the same exact thing as last week: opposing team's games in hand.

The biggest problem would be the Sabres, who the Rangers had an opportunity to push a whole seven points back yesterday, but failed to do so. Now Buffalo is only three points behind the Rangers with three games to play. That's not a good thing for New York, especially with Buffalo really finding their game of late.

Atlanta, who's fallen off its pace as well, is looking like less and less of a threat, while Toronto seems poised to make a run.

The New Jersey Devils, who are on a 9-1 tear in their last 10 games, are 11 points back of Carolina, with two games in hand. The Devils still need to do a lot of work to find themselves in the playoff picture this season, but they're making it exciting.

The Rangers, however, can't be worried about the Devils right now. With Minnesota, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Anaheim, and San Jose being the next five matchups for the Rangers, they will be doing a lot of scoreboard watching.

Marian Gaborik, who's expected back from his injury sooner rather than later, will hopefully find his game again. Gaborik is still waking up with headaches at night according to multiple beat reporters, but is having better days. Maybe the rest, although being out with a concussion isn't exactly "rest," will help him find his game again.

Martin Biron being injured doesn't help the Rangers either. The original plan to give Henrik Lundqvist about 20 games of rest this year, is probably being thrown out the window with Biron (who's been fantastic this season) being out.

The Rangers have a wealth of issues that they are going to have to deal with, but good teams find a way to fight through them. We'll just have to wait and see what John Tortorella can do to right the ship.