Who are these guys and what have they done with the New York
Rangers? Without three of their most
important players the Rangers have won three straight, and more importantly, they’ve
transformed into a hard-working, fun-to-watch, legitimately solid NHL team.
What has happened? As
Rangers fans know all to well, it’s the less-talented teams in the NHL that are
often the toughest to play against. The
New York Islanders haven’t had many household names on their squad over the
last few years but they always give the Rangers headaches and are never an easy
win for anyone. The Islanders compensate
for their lack of talent with ferocious fore-checking, team play, and
outstanding efforts across the board every night. (Ironically, this year Rangers’ cast-off P.A.
Parenteau is on the Islanders’ top line and has a team-leading nine points).
Perhaps a small dose of the Islanders’ medicine is what the
Rangers needed. The Blueshirts still
have star power, but three of the team’s biggest names are out of the lineup
and the Rangers have been forced to adapt. The team realized in its first game without Marian Gaborik that things
would be different. No longer could
teammates sit back and wait for Gaborik to create offensive magic. No, if the Rangers wanted to score at all
without their offensive stars, it would take extra effort and other players
would have to step up.
And that’s exactly what’s happened. A week ago it seemed like the Rangers were
destined for an early season collapse. Now before our very eyes, the Rangers have turned into something to be
proud of. A relentless fore-check,
incredible efforts by Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky, much-improved work
ethics from a dozen other guys, an offensively revitalized Michal Rozsival, the
fearless shot blocking of Dan Girardi, improved play from Brian Boyle, a
renewed interest in sticking up for one another, the youthful vigor of Derek
Stepan and that guy Henrik in net have combined to turn the Rangers into a
There’s one key difference between the Islanders and
Rangers. The Islanders play hard every
year, but lack the talent to stay in the playoff hunt as the season drags
on. The Rangers have proven they can
match the Islanders’ nightly effort, but will be adding the star-talent that
can make this sustainable. The question
now is whether they’ll keep this up when their stars return. Here’s to hoping.