NEW YORK – Don’t ask John Tortorella is the Rangers are an elite team.
He doesn’t want to hear it.
“Wrong question,” Tortorella dismissed. “We’ve still got a ways to go.”
Ok, sure there are improvements to be made, but Tortorella has to feel pretty good about his Rangers these days, especially after their 4-3 win over the Penguins.
The win is their third in a row and for those keeping score at home the other two victories were against the Capitals and Flyers, respectively.
So after knocking out the cream of the East, they may not be elite, but they are pretty good.
“It’s important to have your top guys play strong in big games and Gaby (Marian Gaborik) and (Brad) Richards were really good out there,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “But I think all four lines played a really good game. We’re building confidence right now and we’re winning in different ways.”
They won by blowing teams out (Washington), shutting them out (Philadelphia) and now the squeaker. A four goal second set the pace for the Rangers after goals from Ryan Callahan, John Mitchell, Brad Richards, and Marion Gaborik. They scored two goals on the power play and had contributions from all their lines.
In fact, the combination of Mitchell and Carl Hagelin meshed again with Brian Boyle, setting up a formidable third line for the Blueshirts.
“(Mitchell) bringing it,” Tortorella said. “He’s doing the work along the walls, scores a big goal for us. He and (Carl) Hagelin have stepped right in and added some speed, handled the puck and made plays. Hopefully we continue.”
Same thing with Richards, who is looking like the rare Rangers signing, who comes in and performs as advertised.
“It’s fun to be in a hockey environment,” said Richards,. “No disrespect to the other places I played, I had a lot of fun, but this is a little different. It’s Original Six, and you get the big rivalries, and it makes playing these games a little easier.”
And then there was Gaborik, who Tortorella said was the best player on the ice. Not only did he assist on Callahan’s goal to tie the game, he scored the eventual game winner.
“It’s good to know that we can beat the top teams,” Lundqvist added. “It doesn’t matter who you play in the league now, whether it’s the first-place team or the last-place team, it’s just different types of games. Today, the toughest part is their skill and speed. Some other games we play teams that grind really hard and make it tough for you but their speed and skill today was the toughest part.”
A few more of these though, Tortorella will have to call his team elite.