Two Rangers Losses Aren't Worth Worrying About

Two Rangers losses can't erase the entire season

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Apr 9, 2012  |  Updated 1:33 PM EDT
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Two Rangers Losses Aren't Worth Worrying About

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A stumble after the race is won isn't cause for alarm.

After 80 games that took the Rangers from a mediocre start in Europe all the way to the best record in the Eastern Conference, they played poorly in two games with little consequence and lost them both by lopsided margins.

For some Rangers fans, that's a major sin and a sign that the walls are about to come crashing in around the team. It doesn't matter that the Rangers are still in the pole position as the playoffs get underway, it's unspeakable that the team would come up with less than their best effort with the Presidents Trophy for the best record in the entire league still in sight.

Saturday evening's loss to the Capitals means that the Canucks have earned that honor, one that the years have shown to be fairly meaningless to a team's chances of raising the only trophy that actually matters. It's an easy thing to fret about in April when the playoffs haven't started, but worrying about who you might meet in the Stanley Cup Finals feels fairly insignificant compared to actually getting there.

The same is true of concerns about giving the Capitals the seventh spot while the Senators slid into the eighth spot for a playoff date with the Rangers. Yes, the Rangers lost three of four to Ottawa this season but you're going to have to beat good teams to get to the Cup so the order you face them shouldn't matter.

Those first 80 games are going to have a lot more to do with the Rangers' ultimate success or failure on that journey which should be reassuring to those who have decided that the sky is falling because of the losses to the Penguins and Capitals. Not that they were really watching those games anyway.

If they were paying attention, they would have seen the Rangers rolling with all four lines and all six defensemen throughout the entire games instead of focusing on the key players and strong performers the way they have in every game with the season in the balance. They played players like Artem Anisimov on penalty kills and clearly held back from their usual full-throttle effort to avoid any injuries.

That's where the focus should be, should you choose to focus on those last two games at all. Focus on Derek Stepan looking fine after the scary knee-to-knee hit in Pittsburgh and Henrik Lundqvist showing no signs of trouble with the arm that bothered him in Philadelphia, because any injuries to those players would be far more damning than losing games by any score in the final week of the season. 

Everyone should know who these Rangers are at this point in the season. They aren't without flaws, to be sure, but they also aren't the team that viewed these last two games as a way to keep their legs fresh without risking anything more than the minimum to win an honorific that ceases to matter the moment the puck is dropped in the first game of the playoffs.

Thinking otherwise is basically thinking that the job John Tortorella did this year and the way the team responded to Tortorella was nothing more than a fraud. With so much evidence to the contrary, you need more than two games to support that kind of vision of what went on this season.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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