NEW YORK RANGERS: It's Been an Indefatigable Climb to Fifty-Six Points.
...And here's another item you can add to the list of things good teams do; Win Ugly. It's right up there with comebacks. And they somewhat pulled off another one Saturday against Pittsburgh after going down 1-0 early in the first period - Just like they did against Florida, and falling behind in Philly the game before that. But after Brad Richards tied the Penguins game late in the first period, the Rangers never looked back, or even glanced at the lasting look of disgust on Coach's face. No, this wasn't the prettiest effort the Rangers have put forth this season. If you asked Coach Torts, they weren't even good; much less pretty. But good teams find a way to win these games too. And even Coach knows what's up. All Hail Henrik!
It certainly doesn't hurt when you get another great performance from your goalie. Henrik Lundqvist was magnificent yet again. And he needed to be. He faced thirty-eight shots from the Penguins. Many of his saves were of the brilliant variety. By the end of regulation time, he had brushed aside thirty-seven of those shots for his eighteenth win of the season.
This latest four game winning streak hasn't had that sense of majesty like say, the seven game streak did, or either of the five game streaks they've been on. Instead, these last four wins have been more of the grinding, lunch-pale variety, with many obstructions and mistakes along the way. Thus, Resiliency; add that to the list of things that make a good team too.
This latest streak has been won on the backs of our goal tending. While The King continues to rule over his Ice-Palace, Marty Biron continues to be the best back-up goal tender in the NHL. This man is, and has been a tremendous asset to the Rangers ever since his signing. He's not only enjoying personal success, it's also showing up in the effect he's having on Henrik's game. Prior to Biron's signing, Henrik was setting and resetting his career highs in games started. That took it's toll and manifested itself with mixed results and nagging injuries in March and April of years past. But now the Ranger goalie has been sharp as a razor blade and the plan is to keep him that way. That's only possible and will pay dividends when the back-up is quality. Marty Biron kept the Rangers hanging around during a 2-2 regulation tie versus Florida two games ago until Marian Gaborik sent the Blueshirts home happy in overtime. The win gave Marty Biron an 8-2 record for the season and it was a win well earned.
And don't look now, but here comes Brandon Dubinsky. Fans see it; - The man has played well. He's been quietly having an impact this season. His assists bare that out. Dubinsky had the first assist (16th of the season) on the Richards tying goal. Then he showed yet another sign of breaking out of his goal scoring slump when he scored a second period short-handed goal giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead. That brings his total up to five. More importantly, his last three goals have come with more frequency than in the time between goal one and two this season.
After figuring so mightily in the Winter Classic, Mike Rupp was again in position to cause a very different story regarding Saturday's game be written. He just missed on a few chances if not for a steadier puck. The important thing is he was in position to cash in. With ice-time comes repetition. With repetition comes consistency. And Mike Rupp and his line are figuring more heavily in Rangers' matters of late.
And with the return of Marc Staal, repetitions are the name of the game as well. Coach Torts gave him fifteen minutes and shifted him as many times as the rest of the bunch; twenty-two shifts in all. His minutes were limited to even-strength time though. Coach Torts will not be putting him back on the PK any time soon it seems. And there really shouldn't be any hurry either. Girardi; McDonagh; Del Zotto; Stralman; and Stu Bickel have all played quite admirably. After all, the Rangers are second in the Eastern Conference and second overall in the NHL to Boston in goals allowed, all of which has been accomplished without our star defenseman. However, Marc Staal has been thumping and bumping upon his return without any post-game ill-effects. That's great news for Staal, the Rangers, and for us fans.
The young, inexperienced, and still rebuilding Blueshirts are now up to fifty-six points this season. Were it not for the goal tending, the last three games felt like games we would have normally lost before this season. Because Coach is right; there haven't been impressive displays of Hockey lately. In the past, this would have been the time of year when our shoe laces started to become untied before the proverbial Other Shoe started falling off our season and causing us to slip down the chutes into another struggle for an eighth place finish. Yet, in these last three games they've literally out-worked themselves through their mistakes to claim victories over Philadelphia; Florida; and Pittsburgh. And last time I checked, both
Fans..., times are changing for these indefatigable Rangers. We'll get to tell them how much we've appreciated their climb to the top of the NHL when they get home later in the week. After Saturday's scheduled NHL games have all been completed, the Rangers will still be waking up Sunday Morning with a League best fifty-six points.
Thank you indeed Boys.