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Like all things in life it is never about getting knocked down but it’s about how one responds to being knocked down that counts. After gifting points away precious division points and the Tony DeAngelo debacle the start to the Rangers 2021 season has been less than ideal.
In a normal 82 game season a slow start would be a lot easier to overcome but in a 56 game season surrounded by covid-19 at every turn a slow start could bury you before you even begin. Then when you factor in the lightning rod of controversy that is Tony DeAngelo it can make a bad situation that much worse.
To the Rangers credit it seems that they have used the DeAngelo mess to become an even stronger unit.
While I have been critical of the Rangers leadership for the DeAngelo mess, they have somehow managed to turn a massive negative into a positive. While it has only been two games since the DeAngelo fiasco, it is something that could have spiraled out of control if the Blueshirts lost immediately afterward. Without having DeAngelo around the Rangers look like a gigantic weight has been taken off the teams shoulders and it’s reflected in their play on the ice so far.
It also does not hurt that DeAngelo’s replacement, Anthony Bitetto, has far outplayed DeAngelo so far in his two games since entering the lineup. The Rangers blueline 1-6 has looked so much better and have been playing with more confidence which is something I never saw coming. K’Andre Miller deserves a bunch of credit for playing like a seasoned veteran as a rookie while David Quinn and his entire staff deserve a bunch of credit for not holding Miller back. You rarely see coaching staffs allow their young horses to run free as rookies but Quinn and his staff have done a terrific job identifying Miller’s potential and letting him run.
Before last season most Ranger fans knew Adam Fox was going to be good but nobody really knew how good he’d be and to say he’s been better than expected is a huge understatement. When you watch Fox each night you see that this kid just has superstar DNA in his blood and has the potential to be one of the best defensemen in this franchises history. Bold statement for sure but when you watch this kid play can you really disagree? He is not just gifted offensively but he more than holds his own defensively which is what makes him so special as a player.
Lindgren is the biggest unsung hero in this whole trio. In the day and age that we live in where offensive defensemen get all the glitz and glamour because of the numbers they produce, players like Lindgren generally go under the radar. Lindgren is a hybrid of what old time fans covet and new school fans love to see. He has the ability to not only lay the hammer down when he wants without taking himself out of the play. While also being able to keep up with the new age NHL’s speed and not look out of place. I commonly refer to him as Dan Girardi that can actually skate. Lindgren can block shots with the best of them while also being able to suppress a teams shooting chances. The biggest asset Lindgren brings to the table is the fact that being so solid defensively allows Fox to skate freely and play his game without thinking. The pair of Lindgren-Fox has the chance to be this generation of fans Leetch-Beukeboom which is something most of us would kill for.
With the Rangers being led by their youth on the backend and Igor Shesterkin in net it appears the Rangers have started to turn the corner. We always had known the Rangers had the talent up front led by Panarin and the biggest question mark would be how would the goaltending respond sans Lundqvist and what would the defense be like after last years awful showing. The Blueshirts are showing that not only can they respond to adversity but they can respond in the best possible manner one can hope for. This season was just a few short games away from running away from the Blueshirts. With picking up five of six from three must win games to continuing the post DeAngelo era with a big win against a top divisional foe in Washington, the Blueshirts have shown more of what this team is truly capable of versus the beginning of the season.