It only took six months, but this past weekend we finally witnessed the tough, gritty, passionate hockey from the Rangers we’ve been begging for all season.
It’s exactly the way they need to be playing going into the final weeks of the season with a playoff berth still in doubt.
However, two wins against teams not likely headed to the postseason (did Columbus really get shutout by the Islanders last night?) doesn’t necessarily insure the Blueshirts have turned a corner, but this quote from Derek Stepan has me very confident they have (via New York Post)…
“At this time of year, it’s all about who wants it more and who’s going to win the one-on-one battles,” Derek Stepan said. “You have to go out there with the mentality of ‘whatever it takes,’ because that’s what it’s going to take over the final 10 games.
“Our group here is committed. We have the leadership group that’s been through it before. You have to be patient and you have to be comfortable playing tight games. If you compete the right way and do the right things, then you’re going to be tough to play against in these tough games.”
Stepan added that the team still has the same work ethic under Alain Vigneault that they had under John Tortorella, only with more skill.
…wait? Did Stepan just say they need to play “the right way?” Looks like someone’s been watching reruns of his team being chronicled by HBO’s 24/7 back in 2011-12?
…while the influx of skill along with AV’s offensive system was desperately needed, I also feel it became a detriment as the Rangers’ inconsistencies this season were likely due to thinking talent alone was enough to get the job done, which it never is in the NHL. Fortunately, it looks like they’ve finally realized it’s work ethic, drive and heart combined with that skill which transforms a good team into a great team. And it couldn’t have happened at a better time.