Rangers thrive, not just survive against gauntlet of top teams

NHL: St. Louis Blues at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have shown once again that they have no problem stacking up against the top teams and players in the NHL. In fact, they not only survived a recent gauntlet of games against some of the top Stanley Cup contenders, they thrived.

The latest example was Thursday night in Colorado, a 3-2 shootout win against the team with the best home record in the League.

The recent stretch of victories against the Carolina Hurricanes, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and Avalanche should provide a major boost of confidence that the Blueshirts can take with them into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They are hitting their stride at the perfect time, as seen over the last several weeks.

Related: Rangers coach seized moment against Avalanche, recognized ‘time to win’

Rangers defeated several elite NHL teams during recent gauntlet of games

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers began this streak of games by taking down the Hurricanes in a 1-0 road win on March 12. The contest had “playoffs” written all over it and the teams lived up to the hype. It was a great way to end the season series for New York, winning two games to Carolina’s one. The win was crucial in setting the tone against the divisional rival, as the two teams are more than likely to meet in the second round of the playoffs.

“It certainly is a big effort by everybody in the room, and I think you need that when you’re playing those top teams,” explained Peter Laviolette after the win.

The Rangers had another mammoth road win March 21, when they defeated the Bruins 5-2 to finish a sweep of their season series. The Bruins are once again an elite team, first in the Atlantic Division and right behind the Rangers in the Presidents’ Trophy race. No question, it was another statement win for the Blueshirts.

Just two days later, the Rangers faced off against the Florida Panthers for the second time in the month of March. After falling 4-2 on March 4, New York answered the bell, winning 4-3 in a shootout and getting revenge on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Overall, the Rangers ended up 1-1-1 against the Stanley Cup runners-up from last season.

Then came the Avalanche in what seemed to be the final regular-season litmus test for the Rangers. Once again, they did not disappoint. Down 1-0 after two periods, New York rallied for the 3-2 shootout victory and sweep the season series 2-0-0. They proved once again that they are ready for any team in a best-of-7 showdown.

Among the incredibly talented players the Rangers faced recently was Nathan Mackinnon of the Avalanche. Up until Thursday night’s game, Mackinnon had recorded a point in every Colorado home game this season. That streak ended at 35 when he was held off the score sheet by the Rangers.

Of course, it wasn’t perfect during this incredibly tough stretch of games. The slate opened with consecutive losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Panthers Panthers on March 2 and 4. The Rangers lost their final game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, surrendering two separate two-goal leads. They also fell to one of the best teams in the Western Conference, losing 4-2 to the Winnipeg Jets.

Nonetheless, New York is playing at an extremely high level. They have only five losses dating back to Jan. 27, with a 20-4-1 record in that span. What’s even more impressive is the resiliency and depth that the Rangers have shown in recent games.

The Blueshirts have been without their captain, Jacob Trouba, since early March and are 9-2-0 without him. They defeated the Flyers, missing three of their top six defensemen in Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, and Erik Gustafsson, as well as center Alex Wennberg.

Being able to win consistently against some of the top teams in the NHL is a great sign for the Rangers. They’ve proven their regular-season mettle and now face an easier slate of games to close out the regular season, including only one in the final nine against a team currently in a playoff spot (Philadelphia Flyers).

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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