Saturday, April 07, 2007

New York Rangers Clinch [J. Mark English]

Our friends at offer up analysis of the Rangers clinching a playoff spot:

I have to tell ya, sometimes Madison Square Garden is a wonderful place where wonderful things happen. Last night's game had a little bit of everything a Ranger fan can hope for.

First, you have Police Officer Steven McDonald challenging the Blueshirts to "win" just as they challenged him to "live" back when he was first shot and fighting for his life. (A tad dramatic, but made for a nice moment and a huge roar from the crowd. P.O. McDonald is a huge fan, so he is entitled to say whatever he wants.) Then you have Jed Ortmeyer, who came back to the team from a serious, potentially life-threatening condition, winning the Extra Effort Award.

Shortly after the start of the game, you had Petr Prucha avenging his scratch from the Islander game by scoring the first goal, and in the process rubbing Tom Renney's nose in it.

You had Jagr dominating at times . . . you had the defense continuing to step it up . . . you had Avery mixing it up . . . you had Lundqvist once again being incredible . . . you had Shanahan shooting from every angle . . .

. . . and you had those overzealous Garden fans chanting "We want the Cup!" while Shanny took an interview on the ice. It was fun and all, but really folks, can they just win a single playoff game before we even start to mention the Cup?

Nonetheless, the place was packed, rowdy, and hungry, from the players to the spectators. Even though last season ended the playoff drought, obviously there is a better feeling this year. This team plowed its way to the postseason, rather than feebly accepting the invite. This time, they have gone 19-8-6 since the All-Star break, rather than enduring a weak second half and a five game losing streak entering the series against the Devils.

Things are different for sure. What that means, ultimately, I have no idea. But I'll tell you one thing: Ranger fans really have something to be excited about . . . and a team to be proud of.

NY Post: Last year's Rangers were responsible for transforming the organization's culture. This year's team has solidified that change. Hockey isn't so different here any more, the way it was in the dark ages of 1997 through 2004. Hockey on Broadway is a credible business.

NY Daily News: Given all the possibilities, some sort of back door figured to open up. But given the way the Rangers have barged down the stretch of this season, the front door was the only one they cared to use for their entry into the playoffs.

NY Newsday: After losing an opportunity to clinch Tuesday against the Islanders, last night the Rangers led virtually all the way. Petr Prucha, who was a healthy scratch Tuesday for the first time since Dec. 16, scored his 21st goal at 2:53 after taking a backhand pass from Matt Cullen just across the Rangers blue line. He barreled down the right side, wound up just above the right circle and beat Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak with a low shot inside the far post.

NY Times: That the Rangers rose to the occasion as resoundingly as they did in a 3-1 victory against Montreal said a lot about the team they have become: a far grittier one than started the season believing a repeat of last year’s playoff appearance would come fairly easy.

The Journal News: "This city wants a champion," coach Tom Renney said, "and we're going to do everything we can to give it to them."

NY Post: A year ago, Lundqvist, struggling with a bad hip, came back in Game 82 to a team that was only 9-13-4 since the Olympic break. The house of cards collapsed when Jagr was lost at the end of Game 1 of the playoffs and the Rangers were swept by the Devils. But that was then and this is now.

The Hockey Rodent: Playoff Bound!

NY SportsDay: Disabled NYPD officer Steven McDonald had a message for the Rangers before their match against the Montreal Canadiens: “Win” . . . “I don't know if any human being on this planet could have inspired us more than Steven McDonald did to start this whole thing,” said coach Tom Renney. “We were staring courage right in the face, while we were out there playing a sport.”

Anybody else feel like the "good old days" might be staring us right in the face as well? I hope they are.

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