Hartnett: Rangers Built To Maintain First-Place Status
‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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The New Jersey Devils gave the Rangers an adequate taste of what they should expect during the final 21 games of the regular season. They came hard and relentless at the Blueshirts, attempting to throw the Rangers off their game by employing physical tactics.
New Jersey attempted to drag the Rangers into a street fight and the Blueshirts were more than willing to accept the gauntlet thrown down by the Devils. Monday night’s game at Madison Square Garden resembled the style of hockey that was prevalent during the late 1990s. There was little space on the Garden ice and both teams were prepared to pay the price physically.
“It was a playoff type of game. Both teams didn’t give much. We had to battle, we got that first goal which was important. It was kinda a pre-lockout type of game. Not much room out there,” assistant captain Brad Richards mentioned postgame.
The Rangers not only stood up to the Devils’ brutality but were able to find openings through the chaos and escaped with a slim 2-0 victory. New York has extended their Eastern Conference supremacy into a nine-point advantage over the chasing Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins.
It might appear to be a sizable gap but heavy hangs the head that wears the crown. Teams at the top end of the conference and those pushing for a playoff spot will be gunning for the Rangers. Judging by Monday night’s victory, the Blueshirts have the resolve needed to keep hold of their first place position.
One player in particular that has faced adversity and pressure throughout the season is Brandon Dubinsky.
After the trade deadline passed, Dubinsky remained a Ranger and played with a point to prove on Monday night. Dubinsky made his presence felt all over the ice and stood up to David Clarkson after the Devils’ enforcer left his feet to board him.
Clarkson had been bending the rules all night and Dubinsky engaged in a fight with Clarkson after the incident. This drew a loud ovation from Rangers’ fans who appreciate Dubinsky, who wears his heart on his sleeve. Mike Rupp spoke about Dubinsky’s importance in big games.
“I think Dubi is a guy that when playoff time comes and there’s a big game on the line, he’s a guy I want on my team. I know people have been talking about his struggles this year but he does a lot of different things for this hockey club. I’d say over the past 10 games, he’s been pretty darn good. He plays with a little edge and a chip and tonight was a perfect example of that. I look for more and more to come from him down the stretch,” Rupp explained.
Brad Richards understands what Dubinsky has been going through. Richards has dealt with the pressure of living up to a 9-year $60 million dollar contract and high expectations placed upon him. He shared his thoughts on Dubinsky’s situation and value to the Rangers.
“We know his value. Every player goes through stuff like he’s gone through this year. I’ve gone through it, other players have gone through it here in this team and will in the future. He’s still only 25 years old,” Richards explained.
He continued, “There’s a lot of stuff around the team that’s gone on the past couple of weeks but he have confidence in everybody. He stepped up tonight with a couple big hits and a big fight. He loves being a Ranger, he wants to be a part of this.”
Through the ups and downs over the year, the Rangers have remained a tight-knit group. Richards has served as a mentor to rookie Carl Hagelin all season. Young players like Hagelin tend to go through peaks and valleys but Richards’ influence has helped Hagelin stay on a steady path.
Hagelin scored the game’s opening goal and later assisted on Ryan Callahan’s clinching empty-netter:
Richards spoke about the challenges faced by Hagelin and the unbreakable togetherness of the Blueshirts.
“It’s not a one-year deal in hockey. You’ve got to be professional and take your lumps sometimes and figure out ways to get out of it. Winning and having a tight-knit group and grabbing everybody and protecting each other, that’s the best key. When everybody is confident in each other, it’s a lot easier to get through some of these situations,” he detailed.
Richard stated confidently, “This is our team, we like everybody in here. It’s a great group and now we know for sure this is our team going forward. We’re ready to roll here.”
Rangers fans, was Monday’s victory over the Devils proof that the Blueshirts can hold onto their Eastern Conference lead? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.