NEW YORK – As the wins continue to pile up for the New York Rangers, so does the confidence inside their locker room.
With the extra confidence will come a more disciplined and consistent effort. For now, the Rangers (20-8-4) are finding ways to win. So many ways, they’ve found themselves within two points of the top of the conference, with East-leading Philadelphia in town tomorrow.
“It’s the right type of confidence. I think they know they still need to work on a number of things, but I think they’re pushing one another,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella after the Rangers took out the rival Islanders 4-2 on Thursday night. “Guys are helping one another, they’re at the right spot. Our team isn’t great, we’ve found ways to win. I don’t think we’ve played great, sometimes not even good. But they’ve still found ways to win, and I think they know we have to do more.”
“Everybody senses when everybody’s playing well,” said backup goaltender Martin Biron, who continued to cement his place as the top back-up goaltender in the NHL with his seventh win of the season. “We got guys coming in different situations, logging more ice time than usual, and they’re responding well. Everybody gets a boost from that, and it builds confidence through the whole team. You got guys playing big roles, and new faces in the locker room playing big roles. When that happens, everybody can build on that.”
Biron, whose seven wins have come in only nine starts, is not only giving Henrik Lundqvist more rest, but is giving the team a legitimate one-two punch in net. It doesn’t matter whether Lundqvist or Biron tend goal, New York has an excellent chance to snatch two points.
“You guys got to give Marty Biron some credit here. It’s not about giving Henrik rest. It’s about I have a damn good goalie. And I can’t call him a backup. He’s 7-1, playing a .935 [save %]. It’s not about giving Henrik rest, [Biron]’s winning games,” Tortorella said. “There’s no question, Henrik is our No. 1 guy, but if we want to get [to the playoffs], your goalie can’t be playing 75, 78 games. Right now, it’s a 1 and a 1A.”
“You feel a sense of pride from producing for the team, and being part of a great tandem with Henke,” said Biron. “It was a great vote of confidence from the coaching staff to get me right back into it after just one game [off], since I played a couple games ago in Phoenix. To be able to get a game right there, I was very excited about it, and I wanted to respond right away.”
Possibly the only Rangers skater lacking in confidence recently has been winger Brandon Dubinsky. After leading the Rangers with 24 goals last season, he got only his second goal of the season on Thursday when he rushed down the ice, and wristed the puck stick side past Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to open the game’s scoring at 14:53 of the first.
“I think the big thing for me, the last five games or so I’ve felt like I’ve been playing back to myself and my legs have been moving,” said Dubinsky. “For me it’s about getting shots and playing percentages. You shoot the puck enough, one’s bound to go in. You don’t know how it’s going to go in, but it’s bound to go in.”
“It’s great. He’s such a good player, it’s only a matter of time until he gets another one,” said Dan Girardi after logging over 28 minutes in the win. “More are going to come his way. To get that goal, he’s pretty relieved over there.”
Biron had the secondary assist on Dubinsky’s goal, giving him two assist in his last three games, and 13 career helpers.
Marian Gaborik scored off a faceoff win by Artem Anisimov in the second period. The goal was Gaborik’s 20th of the season, tying him for the NHL lead with Phil Kessel, Steven Stamkos, and Jonathan Toews. Gaborik, who scored 42 goals two years ago, was limited to only 22 goals in an injury-marred season last year.