Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens with teammates on Nov. 6, 2018, at Madison Square Garden.

USA TODAY Images

Hartnett: What Rangers Lack In Skill, They Make Up For In Heart

Blueshirts Win 4th Straight To Pull To .500

Sean Hartnett
November 07, 2018 - 10:39 am
Categories: 

The Rangers aren’t the most skilled team in the league. They’re not the fastest skaters in the league. They don’t possess the deepest blue line or strongest supply of scoring forwards.

What the Rangers do possess is a ton of heart and desire. This has been abundantly clear throughout the Blueshirts’ four-game winning streak, which was capped by a resilient victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

The Rangers rallied back from a 3-1 deficit to score four unanswered goals to claim a 5-3 victory. Following the win, the Rangers have hit the .500 mark with a 7-7-1 record.

Defenseman Neal Pionk went from end-to-end to pull the Rangers ahead, 4-3. The play started with Pionk surveying his options behind the net, then performing a spin-o-rama to deceive Jonathan Drouin. He then cut from the neutral zone into the offensive zone with speed and created his own space once more before driving to the net to beat Carey Price.

It was the kind of solo effort that might finish among the NHL’s top 10 goals when the 2018-19 season is said and done.

The heart, the desire, the feistiness and resilience shown by the Rangers could take this team a long way. For starters, the Blueshirts are no longer cellar dwellers. The sixth-place Rangers have collected 15 points through 15 games to pull even with the fifth-place Philadelphia Flyers on points.

From the division-leading, 18-point Islanders to the last-place Devils, the Metropolitan Division is tight and the teams at the top are yet to create separation.

Same goes for the wild-card race. Right now, the Rangers only trail the Buffalo Sabres by a single point for the second wild-card spot. The Ottawa Senators and Flyers have both recorded 15 points through 15 games, while the Washington Capitals have earned 15 points through 13 games. The Canadiens hold the first wild-card place with 18 points through 15 games.

The Rangers are establishing themselves as a team that’s tough to beat and pushes back. Rookie coach David Quinn’s men fight tooth and nail every night. Though the Rangers played flat for a large chunk of the second period, they eventually flipped the switch and played with the intensity and in-your-face attitude that Quinn demands.

“You’ve got to put something into it to get a win,” Quinn said. “You don’t just win hockey games without effort. I didn’t think we had an awful lot of that in the second period. A lot of coasting. You can say what you want about the calls, but you’ve got to skate in this game, you’ve got to want to hit people, you’ve got to get in people’s way. All you need to know is to watch faceoffs. We were slow off faceoffs; we weren’t aggressive off our assignments.

“All I said (was), ‘Don’t come in here and act like you care about it if you don’t put the effort into it.’ You’ve got to earn victories in this league. I thought we did a pretty good job of it in the third period. I thought we earned it.”

The Blueshirts have earned at least one point in seven of the last 10 games and in eight of the last 12 contests.

This team is showing progress under Quinn. Right now, it’s small steps – but enough small steps in the right direction could eventually lead to big things.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey​.​