Back on February 5th, the Rangers made a move that not only was questionable, but in the eyes of some Rangers fans (including myself), was not needed. They had acquired Sean Avery from the LA Kings for Jason Ward and a couple minor leaguers. At the time, I felt that a player like Sean Avery wasn't what we needed on this team. I thought that we needed finesse players who scored a lot and would get the offense going, not someone who was more worried about aggravating the other team and drawing penalty minutes left and right. The Rangers were struggling mightily and this move really made no Ranger fan feel that much better about making a run for the playoffs. Little did any of us know that Sean was exactly what we needed...
Since his arrival here on Broadway, Avery has put so much energy into the Garden. Fans like myself who had no faith in him have become mesmerized by his grit and intensity. His aggressive style has put other teams players on edge and his ability to draw penalties was a big help for the team. His play rubbed off on teammates and soon we were playing like a team that had toughness to it. And to top it all off, Sean has actually brought some offense to his game as he put in 20 points in the 29 games he played during the regular season as a Ranger. The Rangers in those 29 games went 17-6-6 and pushed themselves from a potential 12th place finish to taking home 6th and getting a date with Atlanta in the first round.
So Sean's impact on the Rangers can easily be seen, but he most certainly hasn't been the only reason why the Rangers have had this resurgence. For exhibit B we go right to the man who has on some nights single handedly won games for us, Henrik Lundqvist.
Henrik's resurgence after the all-star break in late January just shows how tough this guy really is. Many were questioning him after the Olympic Break last season all the way into this season and he was struggling to keep his game in top form. But something came over him after this years All Star break and he turned himself into arguably the best goaltender in the league (not whole season, just after the break). He won 18 times after the All Star break and had 4 shutouts and kept us in the thick of the playoff race all the way until we clinched. His play inspired our defensemen to play harder (even though some still have a hard time deflecting shots into our own nets) and our overall defense improved mightily as the season progressed. The fans have noted his great play these past few months and it's extremely rare to go to a Rangers home game and not here his name chanted at least 5 times that night. It is such a great feeling to know that we have now crossed finally that bridge of finding that next great goaltender since the departure of the great Mike Richter.
Overall, as a Ranger fan I can honestly say that around midseason I was just wondering how bad it was going to be for us. We had started to fall back on that underachieving level and fans were starting to get frustrated. Then the light switch went on after the All Star break and it can definitely be argued that it was because of two players....Sean Avery and Henrik Lundqvist.
At this point, there's only one more thing to say as we prepare to take on the Atlanta Thrashers here in Round 1..........Lets Go Rangers!