One of the themes throughout the Rangers’ 51-win, 109-point regular season was their collective consistency.
The Rangers recorded three five-game winning streaks, two four-game winning streaks, a five-game winning streak and a three-game winning streak while losing three in a row only twice.
Yet, their regular season success has not translated into consistent winning the in the playoffs. Outside of Games 4-5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Ottawa and the last two games against the Devils, the Rangers have alternated wins and losses throughout their 19 games heading into Friday night’s Game 6 at The Prudential Center.
What has been the biggest change between the regular season and the playoffs?
“I think as you keep on going through here, you need to get better. That’s why we’ve gone back and forth. I don’t think we've been consistent,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said. “I think the most important thing that happened last night after a pretty screwy start is that I thought our mindset changed. I think that’s really important for our team. I think we were us last night for a lot of the game.
“I still think we have to elevate. Some guys played really good last night. I think they’re going to have to play better. Some guys didn’t play well, and they’ll have to try to find their game,” Tortorella said. “I still think we have to be better.”
Looking at the small picture
What hasn’t changed is the micro approach that Tortorella espouses.
He is not concerned with winning Games 6 and 7. Rather, the Rangers’ focus is winning Game 6.
“I don’t have to motivate the team. I think our team is motivated. I don’t look at it as overcoming a 3-2 deficit. We need to win a hockey game. We’re preparing to try to win one hockey game and we’ll see after that,” Tortorella said. “So we prepare as we always do. There’s no magic. There are no special speakers coming in. There is none of that.”
Winston Churchill said “those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” While the Devils are content to leave the 1994 Eastern Conference finals in the past, the organization is serious about making sure its athletes understand and embrace the franchise’s history of success.
“I think tradition in an organization is very important. When you walk in our dressing room and see the pictures of the previous Stanley Cup champions and the tradition of winning that’s been carried through in the organization, I think that’s very important,” Devils head coach Pete DeBoer said when he spoke with reporters at the Prudential Center.
“We’ve got a nice mix of veterans and youth,” DeBoer said. “I would include the [Dainius] Zubruses, the [Petr] Sykoras, and the [Zach] Parises and the [Travis] Zajacs in that group too, even though the Zajacs and Parises are still relatively young guys. That’s what good organizations do. The group ahead teaches the group coming in what the expectations are, and that gets carried through. Those guys do a great job of that.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman for news throughout the series.