It didn’t take Nik Antropov too long to learn that there is still something extra in any game between the Rangers and the Islanders.

“I will just say that I have never seen the Islanders play that way when we played against them with the Maple Leafs, ” Antropov told Michael Obernauer of the Daily News. “It was pretty fast-paced over here.”

While the Rangers did defeat the Islanders and the season series five games to one, the Blueshirts should not get too giddy about their victory. The Islanders lineup featured four no-name players recalled from Bridgeport who are not even household names in their households. It is just another example of how the Islanders manage to squeeze every last drop of effort when facing the Rangers. It is also a lesson that the Rangers need to heed as they wind down the regular season and (hopefully) prepare for a Stanley Cup playoff run.

John Tortorella needs to pull a page from fellow American coach Herb Brooks when referring to his team. Brooks reminded his 1980 Olympians that they were not good enough to beat the Russians talent-wise. Rather, they would have to fight tooth and nail for every advantage.

Despite Glen Sather’s deadline deals, the Rangers are still not a team good enough to think they can get by on talent alone. Actually, in this day and age, there really aren’t any teams that can constantly win games without putting forth a 100% effort for 60 minutes. Unfortunately, the Rangers tend to drift through parts of games when they think they can. Even more unfortunate is when the Blueshirts think they can play that way for 60 minutes of hockey – and that has happened far too many times this season.

The Rangers let a blazing start slip away and that has forced them in yet another fight to the finish in an attempt to just make the playoffs. They have left themselves no room for a margin of error so, for all intents and purposes, the Rangers are already in the playoffs. As a result, they need to bring their “A” game to the rink every night – something they didn’t always do against the Islanders last night.

Sunday afternoon’s game against the Boston Bruins and Monday night’s game at Carolina against the Hurricanes will be the major test. These are two games vital to their playoff quest – especially the Hurricanes game. The Rangers will not be able to come away with four points if they put out an effort like they did against the Islanders.

Yes, it was the first game as Rangers for Antropov and Derek Morris and it was Sean Avery’s first NHL game in ages, but fans have witnessed similar efforts with the “regular” lineup.

To paraphrase George Santayana, “If the Rangers do not learn from history they are doomed to repeat it.” In other words, if the Rangers don’t watch and learn the need to play hard like the Islanders, the Rangers will be repeating their past history of missing the playoffs.

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