No Gaborik. No problem. When the star finisher went down in the third game with a separated shoulder, panic already set in. Could the Rangers survive? Following a dreadful loss to Colorado in their first game without their offensive leader, they've won five of seven including a well earned 3-2 win over the Blackhawks last night.
The best aspect is how they prevailed, winning the battles in the trenches in a game that was fun to watch. Both Original 6's played to win, attacking whenever they could. It forced Henrik Lundqvist and Marty Turco to be good with each making tough saves. Even if our goalie was busier playing the hero late, the adventurous Turco also played well, giving his team a chance. Despite boasting a ton more talent, the defending champs fell short due to their opponent's sheer determination. While it's true the Rangers were on their heels for a couple of nervous shifts nursing a one-goal lead, they did all the little things to prevail for just the second time on home ice.
Players sacrificed to send most of MSG aside from the assorted Hawk wagon home happy. They were a T-E-A-M in every sense, grinding it out, which is all we've asked for. John Tortorella's scrappy bunch were hungry and it showed with his team more physical, outhitting the Hawks 35-18 led by frequent target Steve Eminger. Yes. While he did reach a lot, he paced the club with six hits. Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko were right behind with five apiece. Those four outhit the entire Hawk roster. Even Alex Frolov, who was stoned by Turco early, finished a check.
They laid it all on the line, getting in the path of Chicago shots and passes- making life difficult on Joel Queeneville's group. The Rangers blocked 33 shots to the Hawks' 15. Something that was noted in this space last night. Dan Girardi, who's becoming the team's best defenseman- was all over the ice blocking half a dozen. If he erred allowing the dangerous Tomas Kopecky to come in on Lundqvist, who had his teammate's back, at least Danny G took the penalty with less than 26 seconds to spare. It's no secret that this isn't the best D but they played together all night. From the goal out to the hard work of forwards like Callahan, offensive star Brandon Dubinsky, two-way center Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and lunch pail favorite Brandon Prust, these Rangers won over the crowd with their style.
“You get in the lane and sacrifice your body for the team,” Girardi remarked. “There is no skill about it. You just get in the lane and go down.”
“You’ve got to sacrifice yourself in order to win games, and I think that’s been the key to our success when we win games, everyone is blocking shots and making desperate plays, and that’s what good teams do to win,” Dubinsky added after scoring his team-leading sixth and seventh goals while making a diving clear to preserve the win.
This is a tough town. All New Yorkers ask for is an honest effort. Expectations aren't through the roof despite Dolan prices in a rough economy. But what we're seeing from our kids bodes well. Maybe they aren't winning a championship this year. It remains to be seen if they'll make the playoffs. However, they're coming together without the Great Gabby, Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal. The younger Blueshirts are learning how to win the right way, borrowing a page from bitter enemies the Devils and Islanders. Well, the old Devils to be politically correct. It isn't always pretty but doesn't have to be. From the elder statesman Michal Rozsival who's been here since the lockout to the youngest in Evgeny Grachev, there's a lot to like about this group. They're resilient as Erik Christensen demonstrated when he got the winner, responding to Patrick Kane's tally 28 seconds later. A beautiful finish which hopefully will boost his confidence.
"That was a big-league goal he scored there,” Tortorella said. “It was huge because you could feel the air being sucked out of the building, but this gave us a second chance and we held our own after that,” Christensen mentioned.
“Everyone contributed, and the biggest strength to me is that this is a team and everybody is playing for one another,” the pleased coach accurately noted. “That’s a good thing here early in the year, and we have to keep building on it. This was a good one to win.”
Even when they break our hearts like in disappointments last week, they don't quit. A good quality to possess much later. By now, it's evident how they must play every night. Though he shortened his bench late, Tortorella's message is getting through. No wonder the fiery coach has been not as edgy thus far. When you get the attention of your much more accomplished opponent with Queeneville even admitting that's what he wants to see from his club, that speaks volumes.
“A lot of work goes into a win, especially against a good team like Chicago,” Lundqvist pointed out after coming up large with 33 saves. “Everyone pulled together [Monday] night for a great win.”
“I think we owe Hank a couple still,” praised Prust. “He saves our butts a lot, and that’s why he’s the best in the league. So it’s good to get one for him.”
It's that kind of positive attitude that exemplifies what these Blueshirts are all about. A formula which can pay off. The chemistry is there. An exciting thing to see with new leaders developing. A great sign moving forward.