5.9k Share this
Only three of the Rangers’ final seven regular-season games will be against clubs in playoff position. So the Blueshirts will spend a majority of the next two weeks squaring off with teams that know their season will end before the calendar flips to May, beginning with the eliminated Red Wings on Saturday afternoon at the Garden.
It’s an unfamiliar situation for the Rangers, who are about to take part in their first postseason since 2017, but it’s a challenge they’ll have to navigate in order to enter the playoffs on a high note.
“It’s a big mental thing,” head coach Gerard Gallant said of getting up for games this time of year, after practice at MSG Training Center in Tarrytown on Friday. “You’re trying to prepare for every game the same way. Do you do it? No, it doesn’t work the same way all the time. I’m no different than they are. As a coach, you do the same thing. You do the same things, you prepare the same way as you get ready. And sometimes it’s just not there.
“Hopefully, they’re there for the most part. We’ve been pretty good at it, but we’ll see how it works out.”
After shutting out the bottom-dwelling Flyers on Wednesday, the Rangers’ next three games also will be against teams that are out of playoff position.
The Jets, who venture to the Garden on Tuesday, trail the Stars, the Western Conference’s current No. 2 wild card, by eight points. The Islanders, who host the Rangers on Thursday after manhandling their rivals in the last meeting, were 15 points behind the Capitals for the second wild-card spot in the East prior to their matchup with the Canadiens on Friday night.
And even though they’re officially out of playoff contention, the Red Wings are coming off a stunning 3-0 victory over the Hurricanes on Thursday.
“We played Detroit twice this year and both games I think went into overtime,” Gallant pointed out, referring to the Rangers’ 3-2 shootout loss on Feb. 17 and 5-4 overtime win on March 30. “They battle, they play hard, they got some good, young talent. They’re another team that’s out of the playoff picture, but they’re going to fight for their lives and they’re going to work hard.
“We got to worry about our game and get up for it and play well and get two points.”
Two of the three contending teams left on the Rangers schedule, the Bruins and Capitals, are both still working to clinch playoff berths. The Hurricanes, who lead the Metropolitan Division, are the only team the Rangers will face that has already punched a ticket to the Stanley Cup tournament.
The Rangers will also play the Canadiens, who are dead last in the Metro, in their second-to-last game of the regular season on April 27.
Barclay Goodrow, who is headed for his fifth consecutive playoff appearance, said he doesn’t think it’s difficult to get up for games against non-playoff teams at this time of year. He noted that the final stretch of the regular season is more about getting the Rangers’ own game in the right spot, rather than focusing on the opposition.
“Any team can win on any night,” Goodrow said. “I think if you start taking teams for granted or count the points before you earn them, it comes back to bite you. You have to go into each game with the same mentality. Guys may not be in the playoffs, but they’re playing for contracts, they’re playing for spots, there’s a lot to play for whether you’re in the playoffs or not. We have to come in with a good mindset [Saturday] and be prepared to work.”