The Rangers have the start they want to tu.
On their first road trip to The Tau, they won four straight and sit in the Metropolitan Division with nine points, although they have played more games than most teams in the Eastern Conference.
Even more satisfying is the Rangers’ ability to scratch and wager on those four victories while playing without their two top players: Ryan Strom, who missed the entire trip while at the Kovid-19 protocol, and a late-season injury to the road-trip opener at the Capo Cacao Montreal.
In three of four games, the Rangers had to play to protect a one-goal lead and — unlike in previous years — they rose to the challenge. The Rangers blocked 14 shots from the Canadiens in the third period at the start of the tour, then limited the Predators (five shots) and Senators (eight shots) to the final frame of each of those contests.
“I think it builds a little bit of confidence,” defender Jacob Trouba said Sunday after practice at the MSG Training Center. “The best teams can win games when they’re not the best. If you go back in time, I think some of those games will probably slip – this year is a little different.
“You look at the end of the year when the playoffs go down and you lose it by a couple of points. Whatever it is, you look back and say, ‘Who knows? Four or five points, and you can usually identify them.’ Helps the case.
Trouba is far from the first Ranger to make a clear distinction between how the team has dealt with adversity late in the season and how players generally feel on the ice compared to the past.
Even without the key players, the Rangers shied away from hitting the panic button, which allowed them to focus on the task at hand – especially in their recent win over the Senators on Saturday.
Much has been made of the new system of new head coach Gerard Gallant. Players have said that it gives them the freedom to play their style when they police themselves. In the eyes of players, David Quinn, Gallant’s predecessor, may have more complex issues.
Both General Manager Chris Drury and Gallant have emphasized the importance of each player understanding their role, which has simplified each Ranger’s approach to every game.
The Rangers may buckle once when the game is on the line, but now it is constantly turning into an attacking team. Start it off with grit or new management, but whatever it is, it’s working.
“I would be lying if I said there was no different feeling in that situation,” Trouba said. “We know what to do. It’s not really over-the-top. Everybody knows their job. Do your job and we’ll be fine. That’s the kind of mentality we’ve taken.
“There is a little bit more cohesion and I think the team is a little bit tighter. The boys are more comfortable than they were back then, myself included.