Peter Laviolette making New York Rangers a close-knit group
The New York Rangers are off to one of the best starts in franchise history through 14 games. An 11-2-1 record along with a +16 goal differential makes it seem like it has been a walk through Central Park for this New York team. However, the Rangers have faced more than enough adversity early on this season. While adapting to a new system and being plagued by injury, the Rangers have still been able to band together and find ways to win games. Even those in which they may not have entirely deserved the two points.
This largely stems from the culture that Peter Laviolette brought to the team in his first season as head coach. The way this team has banded together seems different from previous years. Laviolette has instilled a culture of playing for the team, rather than the individual. This team-first mentality was noticed from the very beginning of the season with the introduction of a group hug after practice.
“It’s more of a huddle,” Laviolette explained. “It’s more of the players talking and breaking practice. I speak too much, I’m in too many meetings. It’s my voice too much and I think sometimes its good for the players to do something to end the day.”
Peter Laviolette making New York Rangers come together
In addition to bringing the Rangers closer together, Laviolette has put his values on display as he held a family day for the team. “The first part of the day was to take care of some work and then the second part of the day is for everybody to bring their family in and share the afternoon,” Laviolette mentioned following the teams practice. “I’ve found that it’s been really good. A lot of players and their families really like it and I think the players like having them here.”
Another huge factor in terms of the culture within the group is their next man up mentality. The Rangers have faced tremendous adversity on the injury front early on this season. They’ve lost their best defenseman in Adam Fox long term, Filip Chytil has yet to return to the ice, and they are still awaiting the return of Igor Shesterkin. In addition, Ryan Lindgren did not return to the game against Columbus on Sunday night after taking an elbow to the head.
Despite these injuries to key players, the Rangers have still managed a 3-0-1 record. Finding ways to win games is what separates the good from the elite. The Rangers have been getting key contributions throughout the lineup in order to make up for the missing pieces. Jonathan Quick has stepped up big time in Shesterkin’s absence. When Quick missed time with injury, Louis Domingue got the call and delivered a huge performance against Minnesota.
“It takes everybody,” Quick explained. “That’s what you need from your team. You got guys chipping in when you need them to. It’s fun right now, but we also understand that we still have a lot to do and a long way to go.”
With Adam Fox out of the lineup, the Rangers defense has been busy filling his shoes. Erik Gustafsson continues to impress and has been one of the Rangers’ top defenseman. He has quarterbacked the first powerplay unit in place of Fox and finds himself on a four-game point streak. Zac Jones has also been steady on the bottom pair along with Braden Schneider. While he was off to a slow start, he looked great offensively against the Blue Jackets.
Also not to be overlooked is Vincent Trocheck. He has really come on in these last few games, stepping into the second line center role after the injury to Chytil. In his last four games, Trocheck has 3 goals and 4 assists. This type of performance could earn him an extended look on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere. This has easily been the Rangers’ best line over the last several games.
The game against Columbus is a prime example of what it means to find a way to win. The Rangers had the odds stacked up against them. After getting outplayed for two periods, getting a dead-to-rights goal overturned, and losing Ryan Lindgren to injury, the group came out firing in the final frame. They dominated play for the entirety of the period, outshooting their opponent 19-3 en route to overtime. They would not be denied points in that contest, and secured the extra one with a shootout victory.
“Inside of a game that wasn’t going our way for most of the night, we went out in the third period and really delivered hard to make sure we got points. They fought and competed really hard to get that done,” Laviolette mentioned following the win.
There have been several occasions where the Rangers have seemingly rescued victory from the jaws of defeat. In the two overtime victories against Vancouver and Winnipeg, the Rangers won despite being outplayed to some degree. This is what makes them different from last year’s group. So far, they have proven to not fold when facing adversity. In fact, an argument can be made that they are even stronger.
From the culture that Laviolette has brought to this group, to the level of buying in that we have seen from the players, it is no doubt that this is one of the closest knit groups the Rangers have had in recent memory. Finding ways to win games is what makes a Stanley Cup contender. So far, the Rangers have done that to near perfection.