I’ve made it no secret that I am a huge John Tortorella fan. The guy is my favorite coach ever to lead the team I love. Yes, more than Mike Keenan, certainly more than Tom “the horse is out of the barn” Renney. Torts has an uncanny ability to squeeze out every single last drop of effort out of his squads, and this Rangers team is the epitome of that.
Let’s be real here folks. This team isn’t good enough to be a team that still controls it’s own destiny with regards to the presidents trophy. This team shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence as the presidents trophy, and yet, with 2 games to go, they have a very real chance of winning it, having to win 1 against the Pens, and 1 against the Caps. They can do that. They have the leadership to do so. They have the inner belief to do so, and it would be a monumental accomplishment if they do. Clinching the #1 seed in the East is mind boggling though. You could almost understand them doing it if Richards and Gaborik were each on pace for 100+ points. But they aren’t. Gabby is having a monster season, but Richards was having a typical first year transitional year up until a little over a month ago when he caught fire.
Somehow though, Torts has been able to deal with injuries to their #1 defenseman (and their #4 defenseman), has been able to overcome the Rangers getting pretty much NOTHING from Brandon Dubinsky in the goal total department, overcome Brian Boyle having a huge step backwards in his offensive production, overcoming pretty average years by Stepan and Anisimov, all the while integrating Ryan McDonagh into the top pairing, and Carl Hagelin on to the top line.
If that doesn’t warrant the Adams, It’s only because of what’s happened in St. Louis.
Or is it?
Look at St. Louis’ record folks. They are a 1 trick pony. They win at home. They are unstoppable at home. But on the road, they are a below average team. The Rangers on the other hand, on the road, at home, in Europe, on the moon, in alternate dimensions, it doesn’t matter, they come to play, they play hard, and they are consistent. Their game plan doesn’t change at all. Kudos to Torts, the guy deserves a Jack Adams nomination for sure, and, in my personal opinion, deserve the trophy outright.
On to this game. While the score was 5-3, and the Rangers did go up by a 4-0 mark, this was not a 5-3 game. The #1 star should have been Henrik Lundqvist, who wasn’t just on his game, but he was playing at a whole other level tonight. This was about as good as Henrik has been at any point this season. He was the single biggest reason the Rangers won this game. Just watch the highlights above, the save he made on Simmonds and Rinaldo, are you kidding me? Holy crap.
A resurgent power play certainly helps as well. We’ve known all along that if the Rangers were going to do anything in the playoffs, they would need their specialty teams to be a lot better. Quietly, the Rangers have climbed from 29th in the NHL to 22nd in a few weeks. It may not seem like much, but that’s a huge jump to see this late in the season. If the Rangers can make their PP a legitimate weapon, it helps them at even strength as the opposition is less likely to go over that line. The Rangers are a GREAT even strength team with the 5th best Goals For/Allowed ratio in the NHL. It all trickles down, make the PP better, means more time at even strength. The Rangers dominate at even strength, this means more likelyhood they win the game they are designed to play.
Give a lot of credit to Ryan McDonagh too, a goal and an assist, along with a pretty damn good game against a pretty special player in Claude Giroux (who by the way gets away with a lot of dirty little plays that happen when the refs aren’t looking). Giroux had 3 assists, but considering how good he is, sometimes the guy is just going to score.
8 in a row against the Flyers, here’s hoping they beat the Penguins for us in the playoffs.