Which word does not fit?
Winter Classic. Emotional. Thrilling. Compelling. Exciting. Historic. Riveting. Letdown.
Well most certainly the Rangers are hoping that "letdown" will not be lumped in with the others in that Winter Classic grouping when they return to action this evening against the Panthers at The Garden. But be assured that the Rangers are fully aware of the possibility that a letdown is possible after their emotional 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Flyers in Monday's outdoor Winter Classic, and are doing everything in their power to make sure that a letdown in their emotion and in their play does not take place tonight, or in the coming games ahead.
"We're a better team than we were at the start of the year because of what we've gone though, but we're not even halfway through the season so we don't want to start patting ourselves on the back for how great we've done," explained Brad Richards. "Sometimes the harder thing to do is, when no-one is watching and (the games) are not as exciting or as built-up games---those are the harder ones to play because you really have to focus. It's easy to get up for the big ones all the time, and the big stages. It's going through that 82 games where you really have to bear down."
Spoken like a true veteran who has been through many wars, including those won on the way to a Stanley Cup championship. And it is imperative that the Blueshirts follow the lead of the likes of veterans Richards and Mike Rupp---not to mention head coach John Tortorella---in these days that follow the emotional high of the Winter Classic.
"I am worried about that, so we have talked about that as a team, avoiding a letdown," offered Tortorella. "It was an emotional thing, and a great experience for us. Now we have to get our energy back right away. But it concerns me, so it's been addressed and will be addressed again a couple more times before we play."
The Rangers will be tested right away with a back-to-back set of games, first against the Southeast Division-leading Panthers tonight on home ice and then against the extremely-talented Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow evening at the CONSOL Energy Center.
"This time of year, everybody calls these the dog days...and if you want to let it creep into your head and be mentally soft, it can take over a team pretty quickly..we still have a lot of work to do to make sure that doesn't happen to us"-Brad Richards
Though the All-Star Game at the end of the month is within sight, the Rangers still have ten games to play before then---including a pair against the Penguins and their first meeting against the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins this season.
"I think we have a mature enough group in here to realize that we have a lot of hockey left, and that we can't have a letdown now after all that excitement," stated team captain Ryan Callahan.
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