Last night’s thrilling 1-0 loss (hey, a loss can be thrilling, can’t it?) epitomized how the Rangers have been playing lately. It took tirades, players-only meetings, benchings and scratches to turn their season around - are they finally “getting it”? They followed their near-perfect game against Boston with another hard-working, do-all-the-little-things type of effort. Of course, they forgot to do one little thing - score a goal - but their play is getting more and more consistent.
The Rangers’ recent 8-1-4 stretch has them doing all the things that an elite team such as the Devils takes for granted - working hard, playing within a system, taking a team-first approach, forechecking, playing responsible defense and hitting the opposition. This run they’re on has mainly been against the less-stellar teams in the league (except New Jersey), but the Blueshirts are in no position to take anyone for granted. A well-earned point is a well-earned point no matter who the opponent is.
The Rangers can’t score goals at the same pace as a Washington or a Pittsburgh, so the only way they can consistently win games is by that old saying - “finding a way to win.” With the exception of the 6-0 Flyers loss/nightmare (and the occasional stealing of a game by Henrik Lundqvist), the Rangers have been pretty dependable with a hard-working effort game in and game out. The question is: Can they do that the rest of the season? Has something clicked on a team-wide basis or is this just a nice little run that will be looked back on with fondness, as the fans reminisce about the good times of late December/January, and say, “Why can’t they play like that all the time?”
The Rangers aren’t flashy. They’re not a skilled team. They’re not big or especially physical. But they’ve shown that they can play the game the right way with the right amount of energy and effort. It may not always result in a victory (such as last night), but they’ll give themselves a chance to win every game if they can keep it up.