NEW YORK –
For the third time in their history, the New York Rangers won 50 games in a season after their 4-1 win over the lowly Habs last night at the Garden.
And how does coach John Tortorella feel about that?
“Fifty wins doesn’t mean squat,” he said in his own Tortorella style. “You are judged by the playoffs. You are measured as a player and as a team by what your team does in the playoffs.”
Frankly, he’s right. And even though the 50 win season may mean something now, come next week, it won’t mean anything if the Rangers come out with a dud.
Quick ask yourself, who won the President’s Trophy five years ago? How about last year?
Do you think the Packers would trade their 15 wins for the Giants’ Lombardi Trophy? Or how about the Mariners in 2001 with their 116 wins? Sorry they went home.
The real test for the Rangers will start in the Stanly Cup Playoffs. Over the next two months, the team will be fighting for the real championship. It’s why the players get paid for the regular season, but not the playoffs and why it’s important for the club to keep up the efforts from the last six months.
And the players know that.
“We wanted to get rid of all the kinks in our game and be peaking for playoff time, because obviously that’s when it matters most,” said Michael Del Zotto, who was the star of last night’s game with a goal and an assist . “It’s just about being able to keep our penalty kill, five-on-five and power play moving all the way forward. We know that if we get our power play going come playoff time and our whole game clicking, we’ll be a tough team to stop.”
“Our approach doesn’t change,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “I think we have to look at each game as an opportunity to build our own game and build our own confidence and just make sure we feel really good when the season’s over.”
It’s not going be easy as the Rangers will face a tough first round opponent – assuming they clinch the No. 1 spot – in either Ottawa, Buffalo or Washington. And it will get tougher from there with the Devils, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia the seventh seed in the second round.
But that’s what the playoffs are for. It’s going to be a grind, but this team seems to be ready. Of course, they will rely upon Lundqvist and then work from the goal out, but if they plan on playing into June, the Rangers will need to fight for each win, which gets tougher and tougher as the year goes along.
Right now, though the Rangers are still in position to gain home ice throughout the playoffs. With four tough games ahead with Boston, Philly, Pittsburgh, and Washington, the Rangers could be previewing their future playoff opponents this week.
But the magic number is 1 for home ice in the first round and 3 for the Eastern Conference. Finishing strong will give the Blueshirts a chance to become the most successful team in their history with the possibility of 54 wins this season.
And it will give them some momentum in the playoffs. When , as Tortorella says, they will be judged.
It all starts in two weeks. Something special may come around this year.
Some Quotes From The Game
Michael Del Zotto