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Rangers clinch playoff berth, but know their work isn’t done

Mar 19, 2012, 11:32 PM EDT

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The St. Louis Blues have done their best to try to shrug off becoming the NHL’s first team to clinch a playoff berth. The New York Rangers are far more justified in taking a blase attitude about being the East’s first, however, as they’re nowhere near as comfortable as the odds-on Central Division winners must be (deep down).

It makes sense, then, that the Rangers clinched their playoff spot with a tough 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils.

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If division titles didn’t determine seeding, the East’s top four teams would all come from the Atlantic. Excluding the Larry Brooks-abused New York Islanders, the Devils are the only team without a realistic chance to usurp the Rangers for the Atlantic:

(1) Rangers: 97 points, 10 games left, 45 wins (42 in regulation/OT)
(4): Pittsburgh: 94 points, 11 games left, 44 wins (35 in regulation/OT)
(5): Philadelphia: 92 points, 10 games left, 42 wins (39 in regulation/OT)
(6): New Jersey: 87 points, nine games left, 41 wins (30 in regulation/OT)

Yup, the Rangers’ win probably put the Devils’ already-slim Atlantic dreams to bed, but the Penguins remain a serious threat. Pittsburgh has a game in hand and one more contest against the Blueshirts, so John Tortorella & Co. can’t take it easy just because the postseason is now guaranteed.

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