In their past two wins against the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers, the New York Rangers arguably played their best hockey of the season; better than they did during their seven-game winning streak two weeks ago. Don't get me wrong, there were times when they looked very sharp throughout that streak, but they weren't playing to their potential.
In a very well thought-out column in today's New York Post, Larry Brooks suggests that the Rangers' problem previously had been that they were trying too hard to replicate the 2010-11 season. Yes, the roster, for the most part, has remained in-tact since then, but now, in 2011-12, the Rangers are a more mature and developed hockey club ready to tackle larger challenges. In other words, it was time to establish a new identity for this year and leave last season in the past.
Brian Boyle said that transformation occurred over the course of this past weekend...
“I think as individuals we had to figure that out, we had to get going,” said Brian Boyle. “We had that [seven-game] winning streak, but I don’t think we were particularly satisfied with the way we were playing.
“I think after we lost in Florida, we decided, ‘Screw it, we know how to play.’ ”
In the game against the Caps after that loss to Florida, the Rangers sure showed us how to play. They were in the Caps' faces, resilient on the forecheck and they were hitting them as much as possible. The Rangers are a bigger force than they were a year ago. I think last season the Blueshirts were often considered the underdogs in match-ups like that, but that's no longer the case. They are a whole different beast in 2011-12.
Now I know what you are going to say about yesterday's win; the Flyers were without key players in their lineup. However, seeing how the Rangers defended against their top scorer, Claude Giroux, I don't know how much of a difference those players would have made if they were in the lineup. The Rangers weren't losing yesterday, and they came out and established that just four seconds into the game.
Oh, and one more interesting tidbit from Brooks' article regarding Henrik Lundqvist and why he felt pressured to get the shutout Saturday afternoon...
“I have to say that I think I was playing with a guilty feeling because I miscalculated the time, showed up an hour late and missed the meeting,” revealed The King, who had made a couple of brilliant saves that included one on a breakaway early in the first period of Friday’s victory. “I know how important the first few minutes are, both to me and to the group.”
As long as Lundqvist continues to play the way he has this season, he can even skip warm-ups for all I care. But in all seriousness, that just shows how dedicated Henrik is to this hockey club. He felt like he owed them the win -- even though he didn't -- but he went out and got it anyway. All hail The King.