Rangers won’t feel comfortable until ‘there’s a little X next to us’

Tampa, Florida – The Rangers don’t get ahead of themselves.

Ahead of their 62nd and 63rd game (out of 82) this weekend, against two-time Stanley Cup champion Lightning and the Metropolitan Division-led Hurricanes, Rangers refused to look any further than the task at hand. Although they firmly dominated a place in the supplement for most of the season, the message is that nothing is guaranteed yet.

“We got the playoffs first,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said after the morning game at Amalie Arena on Saturday before the game against Tampa Bay. “There are still 21 games left and we have to play hockey well and we have to make sure we go in. That’s what the coach is looking for, playing good games like we played in the last two games, getting as many points as we can and going into a playoff.

“We’re in a playoff now, but you won’t be until you’re there. When there’s a little ‘X’ next to us, I’ll be happy.”

Gerard Gallant wants his team to focus on doing the playoffs before worrying about matches.
NHLI via Getty Images

All but one of Rangers’ remaining matches (vs. Jets on April 19) will be against Eastern Conference competitors. Points will be crucial until the end of the regular season on April 29, which Rangers won’t lose.

Facilities striker Barkley Goudreau said he expects every match to be intense. With so much at stake, Rangers will need to bring in their best hockey game, not only to maintain their position in the playoffs, but also to prepare for the change in style of play post-season.

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“I think all you can control is the effort you put in that night,” Goudreau said. “If you start looking too far in advance and let games slip away, you’re not where you want to be in order or your games just don’t look what they should.

“I think we’ve been doing that for a while, I think we’ve done a pretty good job, given the current game at hand and not worrying about what’s coming next week or next month or the trade deadline or whatever.”

The Lightning has reached the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons, while the Hurricanes have turned into serious contenders in the past three seasons after advancing nine consecutive seasons without an accessory berth. The back-to-back game should be a tuning for Rangers, who are incredibly close to their first playoff series since 2017. It should also reveal a lot about where the club stands compared to well-established rivals in the Stanley Cup.

Goudreau, one of the few Rangers guards with playoff experience after earning two rings with Lightning, has noticed that everything swells during the post-season. In addition to being faster and sharper, errors are amplified. He said he usually brings the best out of teams, and expects the same to apply to Rangers.

“It’s going to be a big test for us,” Goudreau said. “I think we’re confident in ourselves, when we play the way we know we can play. We know it’s hard to beat. So it’s going to be a good test for us. It’s two games we’re really excited about, two games that I think we can improve a lot.”