The thorough 6-2 home victory over the Bruins on Friday night was encouraging for the Rangers. But so were other victories: over the Penguins, Islanders and Capitals (twice).
The key is what follows that dominant win, starting Sunday at the Garden, against the Bruins again. It can’t be one step forward and two steps back, one stand-alone 60 minutes of top-notch hockey. Those 60 minutes must lead to another strong 60 minutes and 60 more and so on.
“That’s something we talked about [Friday] night right after the game. We want to continue to feed off not only the win, but the way we won,” coach David Quinn said Saturday. “Obviously, we wanted to do that after the Washington game [a 4-1 win on Feb. 20] and we had that stinker in Philly [a 4-3 loss Wednesday].”
Consistency, so far, has eluded these Rangers. Through 18 games, they’ve won consecutive games in regulation just twice. Their best performances mostly have been followed with poor efforts and lackluster results.
Considering the Rangers’ youth, and the topsy-turvy nature of this season — from Tony De’Angelo being placed on waivers following an altercation with teammate Alexander Georgiev to Artemi Panarin’s leave of absence to losing players to the COVID-19 list — perhaps their inconsistency shouldn’t be a surprise. Continuity has been lacking.
“I think that’s the challenge for every coach in this league. What makes teams successful is the consistency is the type of game we had [Friday] night and every organization and team is looking for that,” Quinn said. “That’s what makes elite teams elite is they do those things over and over and over again. It’s what separates the elite players and really good NHL players from just the average players, and really what separates the great teams from just the average and decent teams.
“Our challenge is to get our players to do that night in and night out. We just haven’t found that consistency.”
With that in mind, it isn’t too surprising that Quinn is sticking with Georgiev in net, hoping to ride a hot hand and possibly create a streak. As it stands, the Rangers (7-8-3, 18 points) have shown strong signs of late, winning three of their last four games after losing four in a row, defeating the Flyers, Capitals and Bruins in this stretch, sandwiched around that one-goal loss in Philadelphia.
“I do like the direction we’re trending,” Quinn said.
There was much to like about Friday’s win over the Bruins. Thirteen different Rangers produced points. Six different players scored. Their effort was consistent. Their play was smart. Fewer risks were taken. They were in attack mode, but not careless. They were responsible, yet aggressive.
“I just liked our intentions [Friday] night,” Quinn said. “Just our decision-making. It makes it for an easier game.”
The Rangers have been here before. They’ve put together strong games. Carrying momentum over from one game to another is what has eluded them.