After the New York Rangers went ahead and traded Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, and Adam McQuaid, many thought that the team would play the same way they did after the deadline last season, which was horrendous.
After this particular deadline, however, things have been much different. Not only have the Rangers been in every game they have played since the deadline, but they have played very well against strong teams.
Yes, I realize that they have all been losses. At this point however, the fact that the team is losing really does not matter.
What matters right now is that this team continues to learn to play the right way, that the team’s youngsters show that they belong in the league, and that the club does not give up. I’d say that over the last week, that mission was accomplished.
On Sunday, February 24 and Sunday, March 4, the Blueshirts took the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to overtime in both games. In both of these tilts, the team never gave up, battled for every puck, had a lot of guys contribute in their own way and ended coming out of it with a point.
On Wednesday, February 27, the club took the league’s best team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, to overtime in a very hard fought game before losing 4-3 in overtime.
This game saw the team battle back and play hard until the final whistle. Again, I realize that it was another loss, but like I said earlier, that really does not matter.
In the team’s second game of the week against the Capitals, the Rangers were thoroughly outplayed, but managed to come away with a point thanks to the play of their netminder Alexandar Georgiev.
Speaking of Georgiev, his stats may not show it, but he’s actually been impressive this season for the Blueshirts. Whenever he is between the pipes, he is under siege and is forced to make a ton of saves on a lot of quality scoring chances.
What’s also been impressive is the play of Jimmy Vesey. When Zuccarello was shipped out, Vesey got put on the top line and showed that he could handle a lot of ice time, create scoring opportunities, and play the game with skill, tenacity, and a willingness to be physical.
Of course, Mika Zibanejad continues to be the offensive leader for this hockey club. He has 63 points on 27 goals and 36 assists.
If he continues to play this way, he should crack both the 30-goal mark and 70-point mark. The Rangers have not had this kind of offensive player in awhile so it is nice to know that he will be a big part of this team’s future.
I also love the way team head coach David Quinn has handled this hockey club. He has them working hard, he allows them to be creative, he does not bench players for making a mistake, and he shows his players what happens when they play the game the right way.
Quinn is showing that he is the right guy to lead this rebuilding hockey club. He knows how to handle young players, he is patient, and he is constantly showing the team the way they need to play the game in order to have success.
Again, I know the team is not winning games and that winning is everything in this league. With that said, the team is growing, not giving up, and showing the rest of the league that may be in a few years, they will be ready to get back into the big time.
*Photo: NBC Sports