A week or so ago, it was becoming increasingly easier to throw in the towel on this season and look toward a top draft pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, but Henrik Lundqvist and company gave us reason to cheer, pulling off a four-game winning streak to lead into the holiday break.
While the games weren't necessarily complete 60-minute efforts, they showed a renewed work ethic by the entire group including most importantly by veterans Chris Drury, Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival, and Chris Higgins. Whether it was the egg nog or fear for their job, the group came together and may have lifted itself out of the doldrums of the Eastern Conference.
From the backend out, the Rangers were more focused. Defensive zone play was smarter, especially along the boards. When a player like Redden is taking the body on the half-boards, you know the group is enthused.
And we finally saw the dirty goals. Players crashing the net, getting their noses in the tough areas and creating some opportunities for themselves. Put the puck on net and get a rebound, simple philosophy that has finally emanated with this team.
Ryan Callahan has also shown why he wears the "A". Getting back on the scoring sheet in the past two weeks, Callahan has looked more like the firecracker of past, skating diligently on both ends of the ice and finding his way to the net despite who is in front of him.
Then there's Avery, the player who showed the most heart during the Rangers tough times. He's playing smart and even if he takes a penalty, is finding a way to take someone with him. His role is renewed as is his confidence.
And the rookies? Artem Anisimov is coming into his own a little more each game. As he gets more ice time, he gets more comfortable, particularly with driving to the net. He has also shown a veteran-like presence in backchecking. On more than one occasion over the last two weeks, Anisimov made terrific coverages near the crease that saved a goal against.
Matt Gilroy is another improved youngster. After a brief stint in Hartford, the defenseman has really exhibited his maturity and quickly applied what the coaching staff has asked of him.
As the Rangers prepare for an important matchup tomorrow at the Garden against the Islanders, they appear ready to turn the corner and get back into playoff mix.
For more on the Rangers play of late and the impact of Chris Drury, visit BlueshirtBulletinPlus.com!