Every time you see a Ranger dive head first to break up a pass, every time you see a Ranger sacrifice his body in front of a canon of a shot from the point, every time you see a Rangers leave everything he has out there on the ice, you have to ask yourself, why the hell do they do that? The answer is simple. The payoff is the playoffs, and the Rangers are in it.
This is why I was ok with the Rangers acquiring McCabe. This is why I was so disappointed that the team might not have made it. Because the Rangers did everything, EVERYTHING you can ask from a team to make the playoffs. They played with guts, they played with balls, they played with heart, and about 79 games of the season they made me proud as hell to be a Ranger fan. Tough to ask for much more.
Going back to todays game, you saw a picture perfect example of the Rangers mentality. To grind it out, to never get down on yourselves, to wear other teams down with constant physical presence, and a never give up mentality. The Rangers showed some excellent heart by not giving up when Ilya Kovalchuk nearly took over the entire game single handedly in the first. Instead they clamped down even more defensively, and counter attacked when the Devils gave them the opportunity. They never seemed to deviate from the game play, and in the end walked out of the Garden with a chance, a very real chance, to make the playoffs.
Of course I DVR’ed the Canes-Bolts game and save the Hurricanes basically duplicate the Rangers performance against the Thrashers a few days back. They came out flat, or possibly nervous, either way it looked the same, and the Lightning ripped them to shreds with a quick counter attack that the Canes looked unable to stop. Give credit to the Lightning, they played this like it was a do or die game for them, instead of the meaningless 60 minutes that it really was for them, and the Rangers enjoyed every single minute of it.
Now, on to the playoffs. Rangers have the unenviable task of once again trying to play the Washington Capitals during the first round. A few years back they almost won a series from the Caps, but fell apart after taking a 3-1 lead. Do I think that will happen again? Check out the blog in the next day or so for my full preview.