- Craig Custance
The New York Rangers understand the best chance of winning a hockey game is to put forth a better effort than their opponent. When things are going well, they play with emotion. They play with second and third efforts. They block every shot in sight.
John Tortorella demands the most from each player. And when that player gives it, he demands just a little more.
After wins played the right way, the Rangers are physically and emotionally spent. So is the coaching staff.
So, you can say it's exhausting. You can say it's the hardest kind of hockey to maintain over an 82-game season and then have anything left for the playoffs. And there have been stretches during the second half of the season in which fatigue looked to set in for the Rangers, supporting that theory.
The Rangers don't see it that way. They can't. They prefer another theory.
"The more you do it, the better you get at it," Rangers assistant coach and GM Jim Schoenfeld said when we chatted late last week. "The better mentally and physically conditioned you are to do it."
Then he offered up the motto that drives the Rangers' dressing room: "Good athletes push themselves until they hurt. Great athletes push themselves while they're hurt."
This is the identity the Rangers have carved around the core group of guys such as Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan and Marc Staal. It's an attitude embraced as players such as Brandon Prust, Mike Rupp and Brian Boyle joined the team.
When you look at the consistency of the Rangers this season, it supports Schoenfeld's theory. New York's exhausting style is one this group has been able to maintain and even improve upon. While other contending teams have hit serious slumps that indicate they've eased up on the pressure, the Rangers have kept on piling up points.
Heading into the playoffs, Craig Custance gets the lowdown on the New York Rangers from rival players, coaches and scouts.