Found March 30, 2012 on Blue Seat Blogs:
New_jersey_devils_b2a0

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A team that loses two of its top four defensemen for extended periods of time falters, and drops to mediocrity while dealing with the injuries. Oh wait, you didn’t hear that? That’s likely because the Rangers lost two of their top four defensemen, guys that were playing 20+ minutes a night last season, but they kept on trucking along, and now sit just five points away from clinching the home ice in the Eastern Conference.

The Rangers didn’t know what to expect with Marc Staal. Concussions are a tricky beast afterall. Staal missed the first 36 games of the season, an injury that forced several players in the lineup to step up. Ryan McDonagh was moved from his comfortable pairing with Mike Sauer up to the top pair with Dan Girardi, and was one-half of the best shutdown pair in the league while playing 30 minutes a night. Michael Del Zotto was thrust into a top four spot after spending parts of last season in the AHL. The combination of he and Sauer thrived as well. For some reason that bottom pairing rotation between Anton Stralman, Steve Eminger, and Jeff Woywitka wasn’t talked about much.

Then the unthinkable happened: Mike Sauer fell awkwardly after a hit by Dion Phaneuf, and hit his head on the boards. Another top four defenseman out with a concussion. Another gaping hole in the lineup to fill. After a short stint with Eminger (before he went down with an injury), Del Zotto’s new partner wound up being Stralman. The wildcard signing was now forced into playing 20 minutes a night. He thrived, and the Rangers still wouldn’t quit.

Sauer hasn’t been seen or heard from since his concussion in December. The Rangers have been very quiet on that end. But there was that month long period where the Rangers were without both Staal and Sauer, a period in which they played 12 games. The Rangers went 8-3-1 in that span, but not before going 2-2-1 before the Eminger/Woywitka injuries forced Stu Bickel in the lineup later that month. With no Staal, Sauer, or Eminger, the Rangers managed to go 6-1-0 before Staal would return for the Winter Classic.

Something needs to be said for the grit, determination, and the “never say die” attitude this team showed during what could have been a disastrous month. How many teams have lost just one of their top-four defenders and faltered?

The Flyers are a team we can look at, but their offense (3rd in the league in goals scored) masked their defensive flaws when they lost Chris Pronger. The Red Wings went 4-6-2 when Nick Lidstrom went down with an injury in February. Mike Green played in three games between November and January, a period that saw the Caps play sub-.500 hockey. These teams only lost one of their top four, the Rangers lost two.

But yet here we are at the end of March, and the Rangers need just five points in their final five games to clinch home ice advantage until the Stanley Cup Finals. Teams can find a way to use injuries as an excuse for losing. John Tortorella wouldn’t allow his team to do so. That’s what sets the Rangers apart from every other team in this league: there are no excuses, only wins.

THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Boyle on the rise – playoff key?

In his first two seasons in New York Brian Boyle seemed to run out of steam towards the end of the season, at least offensively. This year he’s getting better as the Rangers approach the regular season finish line; as 3 goals in 4 games and an increased physical presence would suggest. Boyle is looking more physically engaged, is a reliable faceoff performer and all of a sudden...

Rangers return Tim Erixon to Connecticut

The Rangers have returned defenseman Tim Erixon to the Connecticut Whale of the AHL. Erixon was initially called up two weeks ago to serve as another option for the Rangers to look at on defense. In his five game call up, Erixon earned his first two points as a NHL player, both assists, a -2 rating, and six hits. Erixon averaged roughly ten minutes of ice time while playing on the...

New York Rangers Eye The Prize

New York Rangers’ coach, John Tortorella, has reiterated that he has no interest in the daily on-goings within the Eastern Conference playoff race, and has been prudent in stressing to the media, and, more importantly, to his players, that the Rangers are only concerning themselves with their tasks at hand. As a writer I am [...]

Postgame: Rangers Earn 50th Win of Season in Dominate Performance Over Habs

The night began with a special inspirational speech from Steven McDonald prior to the annual Extra Effort Award being given to the well-deserved Ryan Callahan. McDonald’s speech concluded with the phrase “see you in June,” which nearly rocked the roof off Madison Square Garden. Well, sixty minutes later, the Rangers proved why so many expect to see them in June in their 4-1...

So, Why Were Jets Fans Booing Richards?

During last night's Rangers 4-2 win in Winnipeg, Brad Richards was booed every time he touched the puck and I had no idea why.Did he spurn them during free agency last offseason? No. Has he injured one of the Jets star players? No. Did he make fun of Canadian hockey fans? No, that was Avery.So what was it? According to Joe Yerdon at Pro Hockey Talk, the rabid Jets fans are notorious...

Rangers Must "Bottle" Commitment from Wednesday's Win

In the early stages of Wednesday’s 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets, the New York Rangers resembled the hockey club that struggled its way through the month of March with inconsistent play and many flaws to their game. In the second half of the tilt, however, the Rangers showed signs of the team that won seven straight back in November into December to take the League by surprise...

Pregame: Rangers Host Habs with Hopes of Extending Lead in East

The month of March didn't exactly go as well as the New York Rangers had hoped heading in. They knew a busy schedule with tough opponents was awaiting them, so it was no surprise to see them struggle at times along the way. But in this final week of the month, in which the Rangers have played four games in seven nights, things couldn't be going any better. They topped the...

Bruins Plan to Make Statement Against New York Rangers on Sunday

The New York Rangers have been the class of the NHL and the Eastern Conference for much of the season, but the Bruins are looking to change that Sunday night when they visit Madison Square Garden for a late-season tilt with their red, white and blue foes. While the Rangers and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist have been gathering the accolades, Boston will let their play do the talking...

TheNYRBlog Reader Hangs With Hagelin

TheNYRBlog reader Evan sends me this pic of his son Jakob hanging out with Carl Hagelin at a recent signing...As always please continue to e-mail (nyrfan94@yahoo.com) your Rangers related pictures to me so I can post them on the blog.Remember to follow me on Twitter & Facebook or e-mail me at nyrfan94@yahoo.com.

Rangers 4, Canadiens 1

Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards scored early, and defenseman Michael Del Zotto had two goals in the third period as the New York Rangers won their fourth in a row and moved closer to securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night. Henrik Lundqvist was steady throughout in winning for the third straight game...

Torts: 50 Wins Doesn't Mean Squat

Andrew Gross at the Bergen Record has this quote from John Tortorella on the Rangers reaching 50 wins last night..."It doesn't mean squat. It means absolutely nothing. It's about how we're playing as we go through these next four games. It's about our game going into the playoffs. You get measured as a player, you get measured as a team by what you do in the...

Rangers Continue To Roll

They may have already clinched a playoff spot and they may have somewhat of a tight grip on the top spot in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference but the New York Rangers are on a roll right now. Tonight, the team won its 50th game of the year by beating the struggling Montreal Canadiens by a score of 4-1 at Madison Square Garden. The team got another strong performance...

Game Preview: New York Rangers vs Montreal Canadiens

TONIGHT’S GAME: The Rangers will face-off against the Montreal Canadiens tonight at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m.; TV: MSG Plus; Radio: Bloomberg Radio), in an Original Six matchup. The Blueshirts currently sit atop the Eastern Conference standings, and rank first in the league overall, with a record of 49-21-7 (105 pts). The Rangers enter the [...]

Rangers vs. Canadiens (Game 79)

The New York Rangers (49-21-7) host the Montreal Canadiens (29-34-14) at Madison Square Garden starting at 7:00 p.m. For a preview go to Yahoo! Sports. Rangers Game Notes TV: MSG+; Radio: Bloomberg Radio 1130AM, XM 213Live Stream (Don't click on ads in stream, may download virus...

Wacky Wednesday

Just when you think you've seen everything involving the New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects then something comes along that just leaves you going "Huh?" Wednesday was one of those nights where things were wacky as well as wild but one thing for sure, it sure was entertaining. Guess we have to start with no pun intended an epic meltdown by the Kootenay...
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.