‘Hart Off The Ice’
By Sean Hartnett
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After surrendering three third period goals to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, the New York Rangers knew they needed to find better consistency from start to finish. After securing consecutive victories over strong Western Conference foes, the Rangers now have the look of confident group ready to build upon lessons learned.
Captain Ryan Callahan believes that the Rangers are creating the opportunities needed to continue their recent success.
The Blueshirts are playing on an even keel lately and kept their guard up by not allowing opponents back into games. On Thursday night, Henrik Lundqvist had to keep a strong mindset after only facing two shots on net in the first period. The Ducks were able to break their offensive malaise and found plenty of chances following the first intermission. Outside of Bobby Ryan scoring a well-placed wrist shot, Lundqvist was on his game all night and fared better than the Ducks’ Jonas Hiller in a match-up of All-Star net-minders.
Lundqvist rose to the occasion late in the third period as the Ducks hammered away. Against a top goalie in Hiller, the Blueshirts had trouble putting the puck into the net but the Rangers’ own blueline held strong despite the Ducks hammering 15 shots on net during the third period.
Their bend but not break effort gave New York the opportunity to advance to overtime and eventually claim victory the shootout. Erik Christensen and Marian Gaborik displayed tremendous skill to deceive Hiller as the Rangers came away with a hard-earned win.
Ryan McDonagh spoke about the ability to play strong 60 minute games and the effort needed to come away with the full two points on any given night.
While the Rangers’ overall play has been encouraging, their goal-tending has stood out over their last two games. Martin Biron and Lundqvist closed the door on San Jose and Anaheim on consecutive nights, only allowing 3 combined goals against two loaded offenses.
It is a huge luxury for John Tortorella to call upon an experienced backup in Biron whenever Lundqvist needs a break. Biron is capable of being a no. 1 goalie for most NHL franchises and having him step in when Lundqvist isn’t available means that the Rangers don’t lose as much in comparison to other teams around the league when their first-choice goalies are rested.
Biron saved 26 shots on net against the high-powered Sharks’ offense on Monday, limiting them to two goals while keeping San Jose off the board entirely in the third period.
Marty spoke about the mutual relationship between himself and Lundqvist in helping the Rangers find consistent play in net and how the Blueshirts have the amount of depth required as the season unfolds.
One player who stepped up on Thursday was Jeff Woywitka who scored the Rangers’ lone regulation goal. Woywitka is known more for his physical strength and checking but he drove a hard slap-shot past Hiller in the first period.
Biron shared his thoughts on how the Rangers are able to do what’s needed to gain victories whether it’s a star man like Richards or Gaborik contributing or a depth man like Woywitka or Christensen.
The Rangers appear to be coming together as a team and will be looking to continue their progress when the Montreal Canadiens visit MSG on Saturday.
Rangers fans – what are you feelings on the Blueshirts’ recent play? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.