What a difference a week makes, huh?
Last Monday night, the Rangers stormed past the Devils 3-0 and looked the best they've looked all season in the process. Making the playoffs seemed like such a sure thing that they were contemplating a press conference in front of a Mission Accomplished banner on the Intrepid.
That one never works out, though. The Rangers dropped games in Carolina and Boston and saw their chances of making the playoffs slip from 78 percent to 50 percent before Monday night's action, according to Sports Club Stats. They got some help when the Sabres lost, boosting them to 54 percent, but they remain tied with the Panthers in eighth place. That makes Tuesday night's game with the Canadiens worthy of every ounce of effort the Rangers have in them.
And there's the rub. The Rangers have been incapable of offering the needed level of intensity on a nightly basis from the very first game of the season. Rattling off the culprits for the leadership void is old hat at this point, but it's notable that even Sean Avery's return and example hasn't been able to snap players like Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and Wade Redden into boosting their game to a higher level.
That's why firing Tom Renney and hiring John Tortorella hasn't made a bigger difference, and why the Rangers haven't been able to sew up a spot in the postseason dance. Three more chances remain for them to show that they're capable of giving what's necessary, but there's a clear need for change no matter when the season comes to an end.
Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.