Fri 10 Feb 2012
The Rangers Thursday night matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning had all the makings of a classic trap game. The Blueshirts were coming off an emotional (and controversial) loss to their division and geographical rival New Jersey Devils and face the task of back-to-back afternoon games against the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.
The overtime victory against the Lightning won’t earn the Rangers any gold medals in terms of style points, the win does strike gold in terms of the mantra of the late Al Davis who urged his Raiders teams to “Just win, baby.”
More than Brad Richards breaking a one goal in 12 games slump (on the same night that Scott Gomez ends his year-long goal scoring drought no less), more than the Rangers finally scoring a power play goal (the team’s first 5-on-4 power play goal in 14 games), the team made sure they didn’t enter a very difficult week with a two game losing streak.
Rick Carpiniello offered an interesting insight into the Rangers ability to bounce back this season and (up until now) prevent any long losing streaks from derailing their season.
“Not to be one of those Negative Nancys, but you wonder when this team will actually lose a few in a row,” Carpiniello wrote Friday morning on his Journal News Rangers Report Blog. “They haven’t deserved to have a losing streak, but, my gosh, every team since the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens (who went 60-8-12) has had a losing streak at some point, right? These Rangers haven’t lost more than two in a row in regulation all year, and haven’t gone more than two without a win since starting the season 0-1-2. It’s got to happen.”
There are a lot of words that can be used to describe the 2011/2012 New York Rangers – some of which can’t be printed or uttered in polite circles. However, when you take into account Carpiniello’s statement, the one word that can be used is resilient.
All teams and athletes, across the entire sports spectrum, have to learn to deal with and conquer adversity. It is a fundamental part of the makeup of championship teams and athletes.
In the Rangers case, their resiliency and ability to conquer adversity is imperative because, to use an old Herb Brooks saying, they are not talented enough to win on talent alone.
The Rangers “Black-and-Blue-shirts” mentality has not only endeared themselves to their fans, it also serves as the driving force for their resiliency and adaptability. The more roadblocks that are thrown at them, the harder the Rangers work.
Have to open the regular season in Europe, no problem. Lengthy road trip to start the season, check. Injuries to a defense corps forces Coach John Tortorella to give major ice time to players like Stu Bickel, Anton Stralman and Jeff Woywitka (all players who did not fit into the team’s pre-season plans), got that covered as well.
The best explanation for the Rangers’ resiliency might have come from someone who knows a thing or two about hockey.
“They have everything going in the right direction now,” Wayne Gretzky told Dan Rosen of nhl.com on Thursday. “They play hard and they play smart. They believe in themselves and each guy does his own job. They don’t have guys that try to do what they’re not supposed to do. On top of that, John is a tremendous coach.”
The back-to-back weekend matinees start a four game/six day stretch that sees the Rangers pay a return visit to Boston to take on the Eastern Conference’s second place Bruins on Tuesday night and concludes with a Thursday night game at the Garden against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Following this four game stretch, the Rangers face another trap game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 19 which is followed by straight Eastern Conference matchups before the Rangers visit the United Center for a March 9 rematch with the Blackhawks.
The Rangers season will not be made during this stretch, but they need to use these games to start shoring up some of the weaknesses in their games – inconsistent scoring and a sputtering offense. Interestingly enough, solving one of those problems would probably solve the other.
An interesting side note came from CBC.ca columnist Elliotte Friedman in his weekly column on Tuesday in reference to the Rangers and Wild trade. Minnesota sent forward Casey Wellman to New York in exchange for Erik Christensen and a conditional seventh round draft pick in 2013 in a deal that opened up a roster spot for Steve Eminger and provided some new blood for the struggling Connecticut Whale (who was in the midst of a 0-9-2 stretch).
The 6-foot-0/173 pound speedy Wellman was not the Rangers original target according to Friedman. Rather, the Rangers set their sights on 6-foot-2/199 pound physical forward Cody Almond, but Wild GM Chuck Fletcher would not relent. Friedman said that Rangers pro scout Doug Risebrough, former Wild GM, was the driving force behind the push for Almond.
Wellman becomes the first University of Massachusetts player to become a member of the Rangers organization since defenseman Thomas Pock (2003/04 thru 2007/08), who played 59 NHL games with the Blueshirts.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.