I found myself asking a silly question to players today: “How important is it to get off to a good start?”
It’s silly for a lot of reasons, one being that I’m pretty sure no one was about to respond, “It’s not important at all. In fact, I’d prefer to get off to a horrible start.”
But I asked the question anyway because of the context. Bear in mind the Rangers flew out of the gate in 2005-06 and stumbled at the end, then turned around and did the exact opposite last year. By the time they started last spring’s playoffs, almost everyone around the team said the important part was that they were playing their best hockey at the right time.
I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. But I do think a strong start is important for a number of reasons, including:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sometimes youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re on a roll when you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get tired and just keep playing. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what happened last year,Ã¢â‚¬? Lundqvist said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But you can also get tired after 15 games. It all depends on how we play. Hopefully we can get a few good games going and I can relax and I wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel as tired as when the team is struggling. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all about mindset and how the team is doing.Ã¢â‚¬?
It just so happened that the Rangers got by playing Lundqvist as heavily as they did last year. But it’s not something you want to test if you don’t have to. One of the benefits of a strong start is you can throw out a Stephen Valiquette (or an Al Montoya) and not completely worry about the consequences. That way if your goaltender needs a rest, you can give him one.
In other words, there is plenty riding on this first stretch of the schedule. The Rangers won’t make or break their season either way. But they’ll still be setting an important tone.
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