As of today, the New York Rangers sit in 10th place with 76 points, four points out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The past four weeks have been a roller coaster ride for the Blueshirts. They go from being seemingly out of the playoff race, to back in, to out again, then back in. Now four points back of the eighth place Boston Bruins and two points back of the ninth place Atlanta Thrashers, the Rangers are teetering between contention and elimination. With just seven games remaining, the Blueshirts are on the bubble.

As it stands entering tonight’s game against the Islanders, the Rangers have a slim chance of making the playoffs. According to Sports Club Stats, the Rangers have an 18.9% chance of making the playoffs. It doesn’t seem like much of a shot, but the Rangers’ chances improved with both the Bruins and Thrashers losing on home ice. With a win, Atlanta would have pulled even with Boston in eighth place. Tonight, with a win on Long Island and a Thrashers loss in Toronto, the Rangers have a chance to tie Atlanta (78 pts.) in ninth and – brace yourself – pull within four points of sixth place. That’s a lot that needs to happen; but anything is possible this year in the East, especially when the last-place Maple Leafs are playing the role of spoiler.

Following two big wins against division rivals – blowing away the Islanders at home and coming from behind to beat New Jersey in a shootout – the Rangers seemed poised to win their third straight in Toronto. The Rangers were up 2-0 after the first period, but Toronto came back to tie it with 3:35 left in regulation and won the game in overtime, making the Rangers an unbelievably bad 1-7 in overtimes this season. After taking a two-goal lead and suddenly playing like a playoff team, it seemed as though the Rangers tightened up. In their previous two games, when they were seemingly out of the playoffs, it was clear they were playing a lot looser. With something to play for, the Rangers seized up a bit. They still played a decent hockey game, but they were playing tense. So, if they play under the pressures that come with being a playoff team, they tighten up. That doesn’t seem like a good sign for this team down the stretch. Brandon Dubinsky felt the Rangers tightened up some playing with the lead, and because of the way they had suddenly gained ground in the playoff race and had a chance to accomplish something.

“It’s interesting what happens when you just play – you get tired of worrying about everything that you do wrong. You just go,” Dubinsky said. “I thought we played loose those last couple games like that, and then in Toronto I thought we maybe got a little bit tight again, because we’d put ourselves right back in the hunt and all of a sudden you’re tighter again. Sometimes if you’re a ways away, you’re just going.”

With just seven games remaining, the Rangers need to win out. Plain and simple. They shouldn’t be sitting back and waiting for Atlanta or Boston to slip some more, because they’ve essentially been doing that for the last month. If they do that, their bubble will burst. With only two weeks left in the NHL season, the Rangers have an unbelievable opportunity in front of them. They can control their own playoff destiny by winning one game at a time.

In their two games before their loss in Toronto, the Rangers played like a team with nothing to lose – they were confident, aggressive, and most importantly, they played loose. John Tortorella needs to get his team to play like they’ve got nothing left to lose, because in reality they don’t have anything to lose. Some of the media and fans have already declared that this season is all but over. With nothing to lose, the Rangers have everything to gain.

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