That was a big win. A huge win. I sometimes laugh at sports reporters and anchors who ask questions that they know the answers to (i.e. “is this a big game tonight?”) and make statements to players that are so obvious its disgusting, but you can’t deny the magnitude of tonight’s W. Sure, every game this time of year is the biggest game of the season and is a must-win, but when you consider the history and drama between these two teams, it doesn’t get much sweeter than this. And it speaks volumes to the dynamic change undergone in the Rangers locker room from their last meeting, even though many parallels existed between now and then….
Remember way back in the Tom Renney era, circa February 2009? The Rangers were coming off three straight losses: a blowout @ the Igloo, a blanking at the hands of the #1 seeded Bruins, and a lackluster effort against lowly Atlanta on Adam Graves Night (salvaged only by Markus Naslund’s miraculous goal with 11 seconds remaining to force OT). Renney did his best Herb Brooks impression and chose to skate the team until their blades wore thin prior to heading out for a road game in Dallas. The result (if you need refreshing): a 10-2 drubbing by the Stars. The Blueshirts had the rest of the weekend to think about how shameful they played, and a shot at redemption was provided in front of a national TV audience against their archrivals across the Hudson. Back then, I tabbed it as the most important game in Tom Renney’s tenure. The team responded with an effortless, almost pathetic 3-0 shutout loss. In the end, it was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back, with Renney getting fired several weeks later, a decision Sather claimed was in the works for about as long.
Tonight was the most important game in John Tortorella’s short tenure. A blown shootout loss to lowly Atlanta and another failed attempt @ the Igloo, not to mention a pressing Florida Panthers team only 2 points away, and the Rangers again found themselves with their backs against the wall against their archrivals on national TV. The result was a complete 180-degree reversal of fortune, all due to reasons that have been discussed ad nauseum to this point. And a certain diminutive player wearing #16 in blue giving everyone grey hairs in red and black (Brendan Shannahan doesn’t count) didn’t hurt too much.
When you put these two periods together side by side, its easy to see how far this team has come in a relatively short amount of time. Its great to see how everyone on the team has responded. More importantly, we weren’t all taking crazy pills when we were screaming about how much potential this team had.