They've got three games left, and, despite being down in the standings versus any of the teams still left in the National Hockey League's Eastern Conference playoff race, somehow the New York Rangers are in charge of their own destiny.
If they win their final three regular-season games, their next tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs, they will be in, simple as that. For the Rangers, though, little has been simple this season.
Adding Marian Gaborik to the lineup via free agency was supposed to inject offense into the team. The result? Gaborik is the only one on the team averaging a point per game. The next closest player in Vaclav Prospal (why do people call this guy Vinny?) has just about 30 points less.
Acquiring past superstar Olli Jokinen from the Calgary Flames? A relatively failed experiment, as the player who once scored 89 and 91 points in back-to-back seasons with the Florida Panthers a mere few years ago has only been able to manage 13 in 23 with his new team.
Wade Redden… Need I say more?
Ironically, the Prospal signing is perhaps the only one that panned out as expected. He has given the Rangers his general average in points over the past few seasons. For $1,150,000 per year, that's not half-bad.
Meanwhile, the Rangers's task for tonight, beating the basement-dwelling Leafs, isn't even a guaranteed win, considering the fact that the Leafs beat them in late March. One misstep tonight and the home-and-home series that the Rangers have against the Philadelphia Flyers, who are currently in sixth place with four more points at 86, won't mean squat. They could win both those games, reach the 86-point plateau as well, and then lose on a number-of-wins tiebreaker to Philadelphia (40 to 38).
Yes, the Rangers could conceivably still beat out the eighth-place Boston Bruins in that scenario, as the surprising Bruins have 85 points, but any of the Rangers holding out hope that Boston only gets one point or less in their final three games of the season (against the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, and Washington Capitals) must be praying to some pretty gifted Gods, or they at least must be smoking something really potent. Sure, it is possible as the Sabres and Capitals are division-leading teams and the Hurricanes might not be as bad as their record might indicate, but still losing all three is a pretty tall order.
But, of course, winning all three, for the Rangers, is probably an even taller order. They may not deserve it, but at least they've been given a chance to do just that.