First Place Under the Rangers Tree

NEW YORK – Ok, Ranger fans, we know what you have been asking Santa to put under the Garden’s tree.

And yes, New York, there is a Santa Claus.

After finishing off the Flyers tonight, 4-2, the Rangers can check the standings and do it twice and they will find out they have been very nice, as the Broadway Blueshirts are now in first place in the Atlantic Division and second overall in the East.

“You know when you get to March and April those points are going to be hard to come by,” said defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who two assists on the night. “So as many points you can get this time of year, you have to take advantage of them. It is a tough stretch. It’s definitely a better feeling for the team.”

And a different look too. No matter who goes down on the Rangers black and blue line, there’s someone to step in. Stu Bickel, Anton Stralman, and Tim Erixon look like they have been here all year as they easily fit into the club and contributed on the blue line.

It’s almost like the way the old Devils used to win games, as the system was set up to withstand any and all injuries, limiting the shots, while relying on the all-world goaltender as the last line of defense.

It allowed the low budget Devils to withstand losses due to free agency and now the Rangers from the unfortunate effects of injuries.

“It’s really impressive and they don’t miss a beat,” said Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. “It looks like they have been here all year. For a team to have success you have that. The teams at the top always have guys coming in and contributing and putting points up.

“They are playing the same systems in Hartford and when you do that you can come up and not learn new things. They are relaxing and playing their game.”

Sure the Devils played a trapping system and the Rangers an opportunistic offensive defensive scheme, but you get the point.

And these contributions are coming at the right time. The Rangers won the thriller in the desert on Saturday then gave no sympathy for the Devils, froze the Islander sticks, and now flattened the Flyers. And for those keeping score at home, six of those eight points came at the expense of division rivals, something even more valuable in the standings.

“We put it into a capsule,” said coach John Tortorella. “These are the four days, all division games. Tonight was our fourth day and we end up winning all three of them. I am now happy for the players because they now can get away from it for a few days. It’s not a big break and I am glad, because you don’t want to stay away too long.”

Of course, there’s more hockey left to play and December 23rd doesn’t get you into the playoffs, let alone win a cup and that something not lost on Tortorella, who downplayed the team’s standing.

“It’s December 23rd. I am happy the way we are playing and I am happy we are grabbing some points here, which is very important, but they give out playoff bids on December 23rd and we have a lot of hockey still to play.”

But for now, the Rangers get two days off and the four game winning streak does make it easier for the Blueshirts and their fans to enjoy the holiday weekend, before starting back up on Monday against the Islanders and then stops in Washington, Florida and then onto Philly for the Winter Classic.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

About the Author

Joe McDonald

Joe McDonald is the founder and former publisher of NY Sports Day. After selling to i15Media in 2020, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief and responsible for the editorial side of the publication. In the past, Joe was the managing editor of NY Sportscene magazine and assistant editor of Mets Inside Pitch. He has covered the Mets since 2004.

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