‘Tomorrow’ has arrived for the New York Rangers after clinching a playoff spot
The New York Rangers have clinched their first playoff spot since the 2016-17 season. After the final buzzer sounded on a dominant 5-1 win over the Senators at home, my mind flashed back to early September and what the new head coach laid out.
Gerard Gallant stood at the podium before the start of training camp and made his mission clear. The words used were direct and to the point. Furthermore, there was a reverence in the way he spoke that seemed to resonate with his players from day one.
“It starts tomorrow,” Gallant said in September. “You don’t make the playoffs in the next six months, it starts tomorrow.
“Tomorrow is the first day of getting ready to play good hockey. We’re like any other team. We expect to make the playoffs and that’s what our goal is. Talk is cheap. You gotta get ready to work hard and play hard and get ready everyday.”
Gerard Gallant has taken the Rangers to the playoffs
“I’m excited to formally introduce and welcome Gerard Gallant to the New York Rangers,” Chris Drury said after hiring him this past summer. “At the start of this process, I was looking for a coach with a proven track record and success at several levels. Turk (Gallant) checked all of those boxes.”
The New York Rangers hired Gallant because he was battle tested after three head coaching stops in Columbus, Florida, and Vegas. It was his first season with the Golden Knights, also their inaugural campaign, that brought him to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018, falling short to the Capitals.
The move was a great one, because Gallant from the very beginning instilled a simpler system and a belief in his players to get it done.
Unlike his predecessor David Quinn, who was just getting his feet wet in the NHL, Gallant did not overreact to every loss or bad play in the moment. He didn’t quickly bench or scratch players that he knew the team would need later in the season.
More importantly, he gave each player a role to fill.
Gallant let his stars be giving them the freedom to lead. He let his grinders grind, and he found ways to bring the Rangers first ever #1 pick of the modern day, Alexis Lafreniere time to develop.
“You look at the lineup and you see a team ready to take the next big step,” Gallant said when he was hired. “I want to be the hardest-working team in the league – to work hard, to battle hard, to make other teams say, ‘That team works hard every night.’”
The Rangers lead the NHL in comeback wins at 25. They are in the playoffs– first mission accomplished.
New York Rangers not hanging their hats on clinching
After the Rangers heard the final buzzer sound on Saturday night. A triumphant Chris Kreider took to his spot at the door and said to his teammates coming off the ice, “playoffs.”
With each fist bump and hug, Kreider was beaming with pride and a sense of accomplishment. But he was also measured knowing that this is really just one step in their true goal this season.
“That was our primary goal coming into the season,” Kreider noted afterwards on MSG. “We’ve got 9 games left and we will work on things to get better.”
The head coach was also extremely pleased, and admitted that despite his team finding ways to win early on in the season, it wasn’t until about December that they truly found their way.
“I think somewhere around Christmas when we were playing really well, I think we went 11-1, or something in that area,” Gallant explained. “We were playing the right way. At that time they looked at each other and said, ‘I think we’ve got something special’, and it’s a good group of guys having a lot of fun.”
Just like Kreider before him, Gallant reiterated what’s next for the team.
“It’s not over yet,” he said. “We’ve got 9 big games to play and finish as high as we can.”
Artemi Panarin, who leads the team in scoring with 88 points in 68 games after a three point night, sang the same song.
“The team is progressing towards the overall goal,” Panarin said about what everyone is thinking about– the Stanley Cup.
The NHL schedule had 12 games on the docket with the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs securing playoff spots. Find out how other races are shaping up around the league at The Daily Goal Horn. Read more.