In the biggest game of the year, the Rangers didn't play well. They made mistakes, they didn't finish, and their season came to an end. But in the midst of bitter disappointment we were reminded of one thing. Henrik Lundqvist is the best Ranger by far. His 46 saves in the season finale were the reason you were watching a tie game late instead of the final round of the Masters, because the Blueshirts easily could have been down 5-1 in the third period. I have never seen him play better at a bigger time. However, in the end he was betrayed by a lack of offense that has haunted the team all year.
The strange thing about Sunday: If I had told any Rangers fan that your team would be going into a shootout for the right to go to the playoffs, you would have signed for it. The two goals that Lundqvist allowed in the shootout were ones that will stick with King Henrik all summer long. And they will overshadow a great performance.
Is that any way to decide a playoff spot?
I can hear it now. Everyone will be asking, do you want to have a skills competion decide a huge game on the final day of the season? I'll answer that question with another question. Were you on the edge of your seat? Was your heart in your throat? If the answer is yes, then leave it alone. Remember this: If there was no shootout, OT would have been thrilling but the Rangers would have been forced to pull their goalie because a tie would not have helped. That means the game might have ended with an anticlimatic empty-netter.
The Devils didn't do themselves any favors
The Devils played to win Sunday vs the Sabres and topped Buffalo 2-1. In a rare occurance, New Jersey scored the game-winner into an empty net because the Sabres needed to win in regulation to get the No. 2 seed. Here's the problem -- should the Devils have won the game? The win means the second seed for New Jersey and a date with the Flyers, a team they lost to five of six times this season. If the Devils lost in regulation Sunday, they would have played the Bruins, a team they beat three of four times (and the only loss came in OT).
My take? You play to win. You never dump games for a favorable matchup. Be careful what you wish for. I would rather go into the playoffs on a winning note, beating a quality team.
Note for the day: With the Rangers out of the playoffs this year, the Devils are the only team in the Eastern Conference to make the postseason every year since the lockout. The only teams in the West to do that are San Jose and Detroit.