The New York Rangers did their job Saturday (which had been eluding them over recent weeks) to boost their playoff hopes by defeating the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, and they had one more request: a Carolina Hurricanes loss. On Saturday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning did the Rangers the biggest favor of the season by beating the Hurricanes, 6-2, meaning that the Rangers had earned a trip to the 2011 NHL Playoffs. Mike Smith was Henrik Lundqvist-like in net, making 42 stops in the 'Bolts' victory.
The Rangers, the eighth seed with 93 points and a 44-33-5 record, will play the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs, which will begin either Wednesday or Thursday (schedule to be released tomorrow). New York defeated the Capitals three out of four times this season, but make no mistake about it, the slates are wiped clean in the postseason and anything can happen. The last time the Rangers made it to the playoffs was 2009 and they played the Capitals, jumping out to a 3-1 series lead before seeing it collapse via a comeback from Washington.
The series figures to be an exciting one, with the offense-heavy Capitals led by Alex Ovechkin playing against the full-of-heart, grind-it-out Rangers, who will be without Ryan Callahan but back to playing again with their captain, Chris Drury, in the lineup.
Just like last year, the Rangers' playoff fate was decided on the last day of their season. But unlike last year, they can postpone their golfing trips for at least a few weeks.