That is easily the best game the Rangers have played since I’ve been on this blog, which goes back to Jan. 29, and some of you have said that it may have been their best game all year.
Since I’ve been around, whatever game is second best isn’t even close.
And it could not have come at a better time, because the Rangers not only desperately needed both points, but they needed to get a lot of things straightened out — offense, defense, goaltending, coaching, holding a lead, using some smarts, discipline. To do it against such a formidable opponent (even though the Devils are struggling, they were cranked up for this game) is very impressive.
Now comes the challenging part. Do it again. The Rangers have had flashes, though none as bright as this, during the John Tortorella era. But they’ve usually followed up with something less than stellar, sometimes downright bad. Consistency has been a problem, and you need look no further than Atlanta last Thursday for proof. The Rangers need consistency to go anywhere in the playoffs, assuming they get there, and they need a couple more games like this, at least, to get there.
1) Sean Avery was genius. Pure genius. (“The Godfather” was on TV on at the same time as the game and Avery used the Corleone logic: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.) To be that aggravating and disciplined at the same time, well, you can’t teach that. He didn’t even deserve the minor penalty he got when he suckered Clarkson into taking a double-minor and a misconduct.
2) Tortorella realized he had to pull back a bit on the go-go-go pressure, and it worked. That’s a pretty good adjustment to make this late in the game.
3) Hank’s back. Tortorella has said he’s the best goalie in the league, but for a while now he has not been that. He hasn’t been in the uppermost tier of goalies. He has to be that, and he was against the Devils and Marty Brodeur, whom he owns.
4) Curses Versus. How bad can a telecast get? How about Versus starting out of the gate, and repeating throughout, the promo about Buffalo having the most passionate fans in the NHL. Yeah, all the other fans want to hear that, right?
5) I love that Heineken ad with the guys in the walk-in refrigerator full of beer.
Now your boys go back on the road … with no room for slipping back at all.
NOON UPDATE: No new info, but I just wanted to remind you all that Montreal has two games in hand and Florida one. The Cats and Canadiens both play tonight. The Rangers-Habs game next Tuesday could be the deciding game in terms of playoff berth for either team. Of course, if the Rangers can get three or four points out of Carolina and Boston Thursday and Saturday, they could be in really good position by then. Or, on the half-empty side … if they only get two, or one, or no points out of those two road games, that could be the game that knocks them out.