OK, so now that the trade deadline is behind us, we’re going to start doing these “playoff bubble watch” posts. At the moment, the bubble is a big one, and it includes a lot of teams who would cause quite the ruckus by missing the postseason.
Take the Rangers, who just traded their captain, Ryan Callahan, for Tampa Bay’s 38-year-old captain, Martin St. Louis. For general manager Glen Sather, this is another win-now move, as the New York Post’s Larry Brooks explains:
The Rangers didn’t have a first-round draft choice in 2013 — that pick sent to Columbus in the deal for Rick Nash. They won’t have one in 2015 — that gone with Callahan to Tampa Bay. If they reach the conference finals this year, they won’t have a No. 1 this June, either — the 2014 second-rounder becoming a No. 1.
Now imagine the Rangers miss the playoffs. Because it’s possible, you know. Per Sports Club Stats, their odds of qualifying are 66.7 percent. That’s a two-in-three chance. Better than 50 percent, but plenty of room for failure.
True, the Rangers have actually been better on the road (18-11-0) than at MSG (15-15-4), but there’s no definitive reason to believe that trend will continue. Generally speaking, you want to play at home, where you have fan support, the last change and you don’t have travel fatigue.
“Every point is important right now. It’s annoying the way it ends,” Henrik Lundqvist said after last night’s 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto. “We played really well and worked ourselves back into this game. It’s a big frustration right now to not come out of it with two points.”
The Rangers play in Carolina Friday, then come home for a huge game Sunday versus a desperate Detroit side (on NBC). After that, it’s a three-games-in-four-nights trip to Carolina, Minnesota, and Winnipeg.
Look, chances are, the Rangers will make it. They had a tough start to the season while they got adjusted to a new coach and new system and, perhaps most importantly, Lundqvist struggled.
But there’s no denying they’ve got work to do, and the pressure’s on.