Devils Surge But Ranger Reign Continues
The New Jersey Devils have been on a tear since the All-Star Break, but the Rangers continue to rule not only the local teams of interest, but the Eastern Conference.
New York Rangers: It was a bit of a rough week for the Rangers, who suffered two losses in their three games. They were caught sleeping - more like caught dead - by the Blackhawks in their first matchup since the inaugural edition of this column, blitzed for four goals in the first ten minutes of the game. Martin Biron's lackluster performance was a hole the Rangers couldn't climb out of, snapping a four game winning streak. They rough play continued as the squad looked only marginally better in an overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets - a team so far in the league's cellar that the Bat Cave is beginning to look shallow - before being shut out on the road by the Penguins. Though clearly a rough stretch of games for the Rangers, the Broadway Blueshirts held their nine point lead over second place in the Eastern Conference. They'll look to get back on track in upcoming games with the Islanders, Sabres, and Devils - all while rumors continue to swirl that the Rangers are in the market for dynamic goal scorer Rick Nash.
Boston Bruins: With the Ranger's woes, the poor play of the Boston Bruins remains the only reason that New York held their formidable lead. A shootout win over the Canadiens began the three game stretch on a positive note, however consecutive losses to the Jets and Wild, neither playoff teams, ended the run on a sour note. Roster changes continue to be rumored, though redemption for the Eastern Conference's second best team is only four games away - Blues, Sabres, and a home in home against the Senators.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils remained one of sports' hottest teams in the last seven days, improving to an impressive 9-2 since the All-Star Break. They've pulled themselves from playoff contender status to fourth place in the conference. There's little else to say about the team other than that their next three games will feature two tough tests. They'll face the Vancouver Canucks, second in the league in points, on Friday, and the Rangers on Monday. In between, they take on the underwhelming Tampa Bay Lightning.
Buffalo Sabres: Western New York's favorite sons continue to sit six points out of a playoff spot; their rash of injuries and under performances proving too much to overcome. They went 2-2 in their four games since last Wednesday, but gave up 14 goals in those games, suffering a 7-2 embarrassment at the hands of the Flyers. A light schedule awaits the team before next Wednesday, but it will be a testing one, with two games against the conference's best, the Bruins and Rangers.
New York Islanders: Ah, the New York Islanders. So often forgotten, so often for good reasons. The Islanders continue to be a largely irrelevant squad, sitting seven points out of a playoff spot and showing no ambition to improve their plight. They've lost three of their last four, including crooked scores of 5-1 and 6-0. Not much hope can be gleaned by consulting the schedule either, as the Islanders will play the Rangers, Senators - who delivered that 6-0 shellacking - and the disappointing, yet ever dangerous, Capitals in their next three.