Guts and Accountability: A Recipe for Rangers Success

Earlier this week, the Rangers pulled off a stunning come-from-behind win over the Minnesota Wild. New York entered the third period down by three, and proceeded to score five goals in the third to beat the Wild by a 5-4 final. While the win itself was certainly impressive, it was the Rangers’ ability to reboot after what was an atrocious start to the game which really stood out in Monday’s contest. The win was the Blueshirts’ second comeback victory in three games.

The team’s ability to not lose their composure, and play with character and spunk in the final frame, is something that they will need to rekindle and repeat on a game to game basis. If the Rangers are able to enter every game with that same “never say die” attitude that they’ve played with against both the Devils (last week), and the Wild (this week), then that will be a mighty fine recipe for success moving forward. The key, though, is to hold on tight to this “compete until the end” mindset.

Up Was The Only Direction To Go

During the first 40 minutes of Monday’s game against Minnesota, the Rangers were extremely undisciplined, and all but shot themselves in the feet. During the final 12 minutes of the first period, they took nine penalty minutes. The Rangers never gave themselves the opportunity to get a sustained fore-check going. They were forced to kill penalties, skate on their heels, and proceeded to generate just eight shots-on-goal through the first two periods. It was an embarrassment through and through, and there was clearly a lot of frustration on the part of the Rangers.

But instead of dogging it for the remaining twenty minutes, the Rangers channeled all of that anger and frustration into a gutsy, unrelenting effort for the final period of the game, much the way they had done a little less than a week earlier against the Devils across the river in Newark. This time though, it was even more momentous.

Words Are Meaningless…Unless You Act Upon Them

Mats Zuccarello had a break-out game on Monday. He will be key in the success of New York this season. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Mats Zuccarello had a break-out game on Monday. He will be key in the success of New York this season. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Following the game, the language coming from some of the Rangers themselves was not your typical post-game sound bites. Instead, they were true, honest, and almost loaded sentiments. Statements of leadership, statements of mindset, and statements of the necessary intangibles needed to win were spoken.  But this time it was different. This time they had actually put those big words to practice.

You heard Rick Nash talk about the team wanting to “hold each other accountable” for playing a strong last period. Derick Brassard told reporters that the Rangers were embarrassed after their performance in the first two periods, and that in the locker room between periods they spoke about “backing up each other” out on the ice. Mats Zucarello wasn’t shy as he told reporters that the Rangers needed to not be afraid to play “guts out.”

Henrik Lundqvist even stood up and spoke to the team during the second intermission, telling the rest of the squad that they were going to “show the fans just how much we want to win.”

These are, of course, only quotes.  And quotes lose their meaning when they are not acted upon.  But in the Rangers case on Monday night, they weren’t just talked about, they acted on and carried out to a tee.

The Rangers came out and played a near-perfect third period. Rick Nash had a goal and an assist; Derick Brassard had a goal and two assists; Mats Zucarello had a goal and two assists. And Henrik Lundqvist made a huge save just moments before the Rangers tied the game at four.

The leaders led the way, and the rest of the team followed close behind, as they kept the Wild from pushing back during those last 20 minutes.

Recipe For Success

In that third period, the Rangers did play guts out. They held each other accountable. They backed-up one another. And they absolutely showed the fans at Madison Square Garden just how much they wanted to win. The Blueshirts took the intangibles, and made them tangible. They laid it out on the ice for all to see, and what a show it was.

If this is the team that the New York Rangers are becoming, then it is clear that there is plenty of character in that locker room.

If the Rangers can bring the insatiable desire and drive from the third period of Monday’s game against the Wild to every game this season, then they will be just fine.

And if the Rangers can bottle that mindset from Monday night’s game, and never lose hold of it, then they will undoubtedly be a tough team to play against each and every night.

The Rangers are a team with injuries, and they may not have the most top-shelf talent in the league, but they are showing that the character, drive, and personality is there. Couple that with the level of competitiveness in the locker room, and that makes for an extremely tough opponent. Now they just need to continue to put all of those pieces together, and put them to use, as they have in recent games. That will be this team’s recipe for success.

If this Rangers team goes on another deep playoff run, Monday’s game against the Wild could be one that we look back on for quite a long time. It just may have been one of those games.

The goal for now, though? Bring that same jump and tenacity from Monday’s third period, into Saturday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.