Found August 20, 2012 on The Rangers Tribune:

Bickel SimmondsOn January 21, 2012, the New York Rangers gave notice to the rest of the NHL that they had arrived.

Just three weeks prior in the Winter Classic, the Atlantic Division was alerted that the Blueshirts were a legitimate contender and not going away anytime soon, as they took down the Flyers to continue their unbeaten streak against their Philadelphia foes for the season. But it was on the Saturday of January 21 that the Rangers established their dominance. With most of the sports loving world caught up in the NFL’s playoffs at the time, the top two teams in the NHL's Eastern Conference faced off at the midpoint of the year. The All-Star game was a week away and the Rangers headed up to Boston to face the Stanley Cup Champion Bruins for a matinee match. A win would give New York first place overall for the first time in 2012, and the game certainly lived up to its expectations. The two Original Six clubs found themselves heading to overtime after a hard fought, tight checking, sometimes chippy match, or in other words, a typical Rangers-Bruins duel. A boarding major taken by Andrew Ference in extra-time led to a last second, third try put back by Marion Gaborik for the win.

First place, the number one seed; this was unfamiliar territory for the franchise and its diehards. One-goal wins were already commonplace for a team that struggled on a nightly basis to separate themselves from lesser opponents, but becoming the measuring stick of every other franchise in the Conference means you need to bring it every night. There are no easy ones. There are no flat starts that can be overcome.  This trend of tight games, which John Tortorella’s system had a huge part in, continued throughout the balance of the season and on into the playoffs as we are all aware. Game after game of having to play ‘playoff’ hockey, where every shift and every rush can affect the outcome of the game will exhaust a team (not to mention the fan base consuming vast quantities of Tums). I think we all saw how this eventually catches up on you.

Now I know what you are saying; the Rangers had no real secondary scoring, they played the style they had to and were the better team almost every night. You couldn’t be more correct. This team vastly exceeded expectations to the point the ‘magical’ cliché was brought out on a regular basis. The system that coach Tortorella employed, and the players on this squad managing to continuously dovetail, allowed for this magic to occur. The problem (aside from a bounce here and a bounce there) was that they ran out of gas.

Enter Rick Nash. Secondary scoring? How about primary scoring! The 2012-2013 (I know…assuming) New York Rangers will undoubtedly have a different look. Nash, along with playoff rookie phenom Chris Kreider, changes the entire dynamic of the the top six. It is fun to play the line guessing game in August but we all know Torts will mix and match as he sees fit to get guys going or find what works on a shift by shift basis. Assuming (there’s that word again) Marian Gaborik recovers on time and is back in the lineup by early December, there will be quite a few more goals being scored and certainly an improvement on the power play from last season. This improvement will assuredly open up some of these close games, closing out hope in lesser opponents and allowing a more balanced defensive rotation.  

Think what Marty Biron’s presence did for Hank. Rested throughout the season, Lundqvist was able to have a Vezina year and was fresh come playoffs. Without putting too much pressure on one or two players, this jump in offensive talent from last season’s team may just allow Torts to open things up enough for a few nights where the Rangers can allow their fans to unclench their fists and maybe even relax enough to smile a bit midway through the third period.

The signing of Rick Nash did one other thing, though.  Something that as fans we are in unfamiliar territory with and will be forced to get used to, as this team is built to last. That something is being the measuring stick for the League. The team improved one of its major weaknesses and perhaps will not have to play the grind it out, one goal, playoff hockey for 82 (yeah I know) regular season games. But what it did was put a different type of pressure on the team. One thing has not changed since that cold January afternoon, however, and that's the bulls-eye on the back of our beloved Blueshirts. It has only grown larger. The challenge for this young and talented team is now to handle that pressure on a nightly basis.  

** Follow John Schlichting on Twitter: @NYR1579 **

THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Rangers "Not Close" to Deal with Del Zotto; Sauer Update

While the NHL and NHLPA are in a CBA dispute that will jeopardize the 2012-13 season, the New York Rangers have some "disputes" themselves that they are dealing with in their own camp. Number one on the list is concerning Group II restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto. The 22-year-old defenseman, who recorded ten goals and 41 points in 77 games last season, is still without...

Rick Nash’s ability to play both wings assuages the Marian Gaborik injury

Although the Rangers are likely to benefit from a lockout –due to the injury to Marian Gaborik– there is still a solid chance that when the season starts, the club will still be without their top scorer from last season. Gaborik, who had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in June, is said to be out five or six months recovering from the surgery. The acquisition of Rick...

Rangers/Del Zotto Far Apart; Sauer Feeling Better

Larry Brooks at the New York Post reports that the Rangers and Michael Del Zotto (RFA) are not close to striking a deal.Brooks adds that Negotiations are expected to intensify over the next couple of weeks.The Blueshirts are believed to be offering a multi-year deal in the neighborhood of $2.2 million to $2.5 million per season.Del Zotto's last contract paid him $1.087 million...

Right to the "Core" of Big Apple Hockey

As luck would have it, I was fortunate this past weekend to shake hands with budding star and Rangers rookie, Chris Kreider. Along with other NHL players, Kreider graciously donated his time at a local charity event sponsored by Rick Nash’s former Columbus Blue Jacket teammate, Cam Atkinson, in Greenwich, Connecticut. So, coincidentally, what better way to feed off of that adrenaline...

The pros and cons of a “super” line

In an attempt to take our minds off of the inevitable lockout, let’s turn our focus to the Rick Nash acquisition and if he will play with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. The concept of a “super” line with these three sure is enticing. After all, it worked in Ottawa with Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatly. It has worked in the past with Sidney Crosby, Evgeny...

Sabres, Wild & Rangers Could Be Adversely Affected by New CBA the Most

James O'Brien of Pro Hockey Talk breaks down a report courtesy of Craig Custance of ESPN in which teams would be in salary cap hell if the owners get the CBA in their model, which would lower the salary cap from $70 million to around $54 million. Here is the breakdown for the New York Rangers:Rangers: Would be $13.1M above $54M. Custance assumes that New York would need...

Gaborik, Lundqvist Would Benefit From a Lockout Shortened Season

Michael Rappaport of The Hockey Writers highlights the pros and cons of what a lockout could do for the New York Rangers, ranging from individual performances to team play suffering. He mentions Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist as the biggest benefactors of a shorter season.Not only would a shortened season give Gaborik the opportunity to play in a larger percentage of the Rangers...

Anything Less Than a Trip to the Stanley Cup Final Next Season a Disappointment?

In his look at which teams are in the hot seat heading into 2012-13, John Kreiser or NHL.com mentions the New York Rangers, with the acquisition of Rick Nash and making it to the Eastern Conference finals, have heightened expectations....The Rangers are coming off a season in which they finished first in the East and made the conference finals, so anything short of a trip to the...

Greenville Road Warriors, Rangers Renew ECHL Affiliation

According to the Greenville Road Warriors website, the ECHL team and the New York Rangers have come to terms on a renewal of their affiliation, marking the third straight year both organizations have been associated with one another.“We are excited to continue our relationship with the Greenville Road Warriors,” said Rangers Assistant General Manager Jim Schoenfeld. “The Road...

CBA, MDZ, McD, Oh My!

August is always the toughest month for hockey fans. The Rangers season officially ended in late May but June provided us the draft and the intrigue of free agency. In July fans had free agent signings to keep our hockey-crazed minds occupied. In August there’s almost nothing going on to fill the emptiness that comes [...]

BERLET SPOTLIGHT: NASH HERE TODAY, BUT WHERE TOMORROW?

BY: Bruce Berlet (Special to Howlings) Joe Resnick, the agent for All-Star left wing Rick Nash, denied a report that his client will return to play for HC Davos in the Swiss Elite League if there another NHL lockout. Resnick told TSN that Nash, whom the New York Rangers acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 23, will not play for the European team that Nash and San Jose...

Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup Window Remains Open … Lockout or Not

There is a chance, perhaps even a likely one, that the 2012-13 NHL season will not start on time … or even at all. But that fact didn’t stop Chicago Blackhawks fans from buying single-game tickets Monday morning (myself included) despite there being some social media campaigns urging fans to boycott the owners by not buying tickets. Despite lockout concerns, Chicago Blackhawks...

Lockout Could Cancel NHL All-Star Game For Two Years And Cripple Columbus

If the National Hockey League cannot come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners, a lot more could be at stake then just some preseason and regular season games this year. Many more people stand to lose a lot more than just the players and owners. Again, it will be the fans and others who will be some of the biggest losers if...
NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.