Fri 14 Jan 2011
Give the New York Rangers credit. Unlike their loquacious NFL cousins and their ubiquitous head football coach, the Blueshirts strove to downplay their Thursday night matchup with the current kings of the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks.
To a man, the Rangers were quick to point out that Vancouver (14-0-3 in their last 17 games) was not a barometer or measuring stick game. It was a point that Coach John Tortorella hammered home while to talking to the media prior to the game.
“You know what? I’ve had 10 people ask me that. Is this a barometer game, a test game? I don’t look at it that way. We know they’re a really good team. We feel we’re a good team. We want to get back to winning a hockey game after losing the other night,” Rick Carpiniello reported in his Journal News Blog.
“We’re trying to be a better team tonight. We’re going to have to be. You have to respect them. They’re a very good club, but we’re going to play, and we’ll see what happens after 60 minutes.”
Interestingly enough, it was the second time that Tortorella would be wrong during the night.
Tortorella expressed his belief that the Rangers could not win a 1-0 game and that his team needed to find ways to score more goals against the Canucks.
The coach and his team were at the top of their game by practicing “PC sports talk” in trying to downplay whether or not the Canucks game was a barometer game.
When you are as inconsistent a franchise as the Rangers have been during the past decade or so, every game becomes a barometer game.
When you take on teams at the bottom of the standings you have to seize the opportunity afforded you and ice away the two points.
When you are facing teams that are at your own level in the standings, you have to take advantage of the chance to either put some distance on teams that are behind you or look to close the gaps on the teams that are just ahead of you.
When you step up in class and face the elite teams, you have to prove that you are prepared to do whatever it takes to show that not only can you play with the big boys – you can beat them as well.
It is that last idea that has been the calling card for the Rangers this season. Larry Brooks probably came up with the best description of the 2010/2011 Rangers in his NY Post game story on the Canucks game. Brooks referred to the Rangers as the “Black-and-Blueshirts”.
It is an obvious reference to black and blues and aches and pains and even broken bones the Rangers have sacrificed this season as they sacrifice their bodies in the name of blocking shots.
It is also a reference to the lunch pail attitude the Rangers have employed this season. You hear fans talk about the same thing – whether it is in online blogs or in conversations at the Garden. This edition of the Rangers is a fun team to watch.
A lot of the fans reaction has to do with the infusion of youth on the team and the addition of muckers like Brandon Prust who squeeze every last ounce of every shift.
While it is a risky proposition to continue to play one-goal games, these are some of the reasons why the Rangers do have the ability to win 1-0 games, especially when Henrik Lundqvist is at the top of his game.
Granted, there have been a couple of times when the “Black-and-Blueshirts” effort level was not there. Over an 82 game schedule it does happen. After all, how many of us can admit that they give 100% one-hundred percent of the time at work?
Unlike past seasons, thankfully, that has been the exception rather than the rule. Even when healthy, the Rangers do not have enough talent to win on talent alone. They realize that playing hard and doing the little things is just as important – and sometimes even more important – than having the most talent.
Tortorella summed up this attitude following the game.
“The thing I like about it is that everybody contributes in all the little things. I think that’s what’s helping us in those types of games, just the little things, the little battles. Like I said before, I think we’re a good team and more importantly, the players need to think we’re a good team and not worry about who we’re playing, or whether you think it’s stacked against you, and go play your game,” Carpiniello reported.
“We played harder tonight than the Montreal game. I don’t think we played bad (against) Montreal, but tonight was just a grittier effort. Especially after the first period, when I thought we turned it up. So it’s growing. It’s just growing as a team.”
As Ranger fans, it is always our habit to dwell on the doom and gloom when things are going bad and then put the cart before the horse when things are going good. In this case, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it might be leading to a nice run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
If the hockey gods align the stars properly, the return of Ryan Callahan and the first appearance of Vinny Prospal will be what the doctor ordered in terms of reviving the Rangers sluggish offense.
In addition, the Rangers are positioned well to be buyers are the trade deadline. Incredibly, Glen Sather has seemed to find a way to move the Rangers away from salary cap hell – a task that Devils President/GM Lou Lamoriello has failed miserably at.
While it would be nice to add the playmaking and offensive abilities of a Brad Richards, the Rangers have to weigh the costs in terms of prospects and/or draft picks given up against the salary cap space the team would lose in having to re-sign Richards. With the likes of Callahan, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky, Dale Weise, Matt Gilroy and Michael Sauer all set to become RFAs during the summer, Sather needs to keep his financial options.
The Rangers might be better off looking to fine tune certain parts of their team and look to make smaller deals more in step with the Wolski-Rozsival trade as opposed to swinging for the fences and looking to make a blockbuster deal.
With 27-year-old Steve Eminger (set to be UFA this summer) as the old man on the blue line, the Rangers could use a physical veteran presence on defense – especially one with an expiring contract.
While the Rangers have depth at center, the one thing they do lack is a faceoff specialist. While the Seven Million Dollar Man (aka Chris Drury) is supposed to be such a player, the remaining centers have left a lot to be desired when it comes to faceoffs.
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