Through the first half of the season, the Rangers have been cruising in first place and are currently riding a hot streak. A big fear of fans and coaches is that a team gains too much confidence when playing well and starts to take weaker-seeming teams for granted. Coach John Tortorella is not going to let that happen to the New York Rangers this year. 

Totorella Has Coached The Blue Shirts To The Top of the East

With their next opponent, the Phoenix Coyotes, sitting in 11th place in the western conference, the Rangers showed up to practice Monday with a lackluster effort. Tortorella saw this and immediately kicked the team off the ice, telling them to come back when they were ready to play. This isn’t something you hear about in any pro sport too often, if ever. But this coach is determined to crack the whip and have this team focused. 

The result? Another win for the first place rangers and dominant game by Henrik Lundqvist. The team played a well balanced, strong defensive game overall and even had a few nice scoring opportunities. If it wasn’t for Mike Smith doing his best Henrik Lundqvist impression, this wouldn’t have even been a game. It took some miraculous goaltending for the Coyotes to push this game to an extra round of the shoot out, but eventually the better team came out on top when Derek Stepan put the puck past Smith and Lundqvist stopped the Coyotes coach, Shane Doan.

Mike Keenan said in the pre-game that practice doesn’t make perfect…perfect practice makes perfect. And that’s what the Rangers did Monday and it showed as they stayed strong all game and didn’t let up until they had the W in the books. Monday’s practice story and the way they came out and played tonight shows a lot about this team’s character and determination. 

The Rangers have had very talented teams in recent years but haven’t been able to reach their full potential. In 2007, with 94 points, they lost in the Conference Semis to the Sabres in six games. In 2008, they lost to the Penguins in five games after earning 97 points in the regular season. In 2009, they were ousted by the Washington Capitals and the Blue Shirts failed to make the playoffs last year. 

Things are coming together for the Rangers. The younger players are growing up and the team has adopted a team-first philsophy. If they can play the second half of the season just as well and keep Lundqvist rested as they’ve done so far, this could be the year to bring tears to Messier’s eyes once again. Actually, scratch that, he cries any time he sees an old teammate…but you get the point.

Todd Giannattasio is a blog contributor for Gold Star Games, a leading tailgate gear supplier. Todd also contributes simple receipes for guys at Easy Guy Cooking.