New York Rangers, Mats Zuccarello
Photo by Bergen Record

The New York Rangers will battle Jagr and the red hot Florida Panthers tonight as they look to ring in 2016 with a win.

New York Rangers: (21-13-4, 46 points, 3rd in NHL Metropolitan Division)
Florida Panthers: (21-12-4, 46 points, 2nd in NHL Atlantic Division)
Tonight, 7:00 PM on MSG, FS-F
BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida 

By Chris Wengert

New York Rangers fans are feeling good after Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The win was satisfying for many reasons but for the first time in almost a month, the Rangers looked motivated and hungry.

The Blueshirts were skating hard on the fore check, Henrik Lundqvist made some timely saves, and the team played strong defense.

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And to top it off, the team scored not one but two empty net goals. Ranger fans know how much of a rarity empty net goals are in New York.

Any performer, whether they are an athlete, musician, or entertainer, all have mantras that they follow. Perhaps the most important mantra being:

Once is luck. 

Any team can perform well on a given night but the real question is whether or not they can perform well on a consistent basis.

Fans have witnessed plenty of inconsistent play from the Rangers this season.

However, the team looked to have turned a corner on more than a few occasions with wins against the Ottawa Senators and the Anaheim Ducks respectively.

But, the Rangers would fall back into their defensive-less ways following these wins.

For many fans though, Wednesday’s win against Tampa Bay looked different from the Ottawa and Anaheim wins.

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The biggest positive to come out of the Tampa win was strong team defense, something that has been lacking from the Rangers game.

Defensive and offensive players alike made a conscious effort to cover the slot, and the results were obvious.

Watch Mats Zuccarello cover Jason Garrison in front of Henrik Lundqvist:

A game or two ago, Garrsion would have been left wide open in front of Lundqvist, but not against Tampa.

Another bright spot in Wednesday’s win was the play of the fourth line.

Like it or not, Tanner Glass has been a solid player for the Rangers this season. While the penalty on the Brian Boyle hit eventually led to a Tampa goal, the call was boarder line.

It was fun seeing Boyle back in the Rangers bench for a minute:

Glass’ hit was enough for him to earn him the Broadway Hat, which shows how valuable he is in the locker room.

The Rangers will skate against the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr tonight, who has tallied eight point in his last 10 games.

What he is doing for hockey is Brett Favre like. Jagr is 43 years old and is still a dangerous player, not just adequate, but dangerous.

For this reason, Lundqvist will need to be at the top of his game. Hank made many great saves to keep the Rangers in the game on Wednesday, but can he do it consistently?

All fans know how strong The King’s play can be if he continues to gain confidence with great saves like this one on Steven Stamkos:

That save could have easily given Tampa Bay much needed momentum if it went in, but Hank shut the door on the attempt.

Also, is it possible that we are only now seeing the upside to a confident Dan Boyle?

Boyle’s chemistry with Keith Yandle was exactly what fans thought they were getting when the Rangers acquired the aging defenseman:

As for Kevin Hayes, it seems that Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault has not let him off of the proverbial hook just yet.

Expect Hayes to be a healthy scratch again tonight:

The Rangers have an opportunity to keep the momentum from the Tampa win going tonight against a strong Florida team.

Will they remain committed to playing team defense? Will they continue to skate hard on the fore check? Will Lundqvist be reliable in net?

Or, will the Rangers prove to us that once was only luck?

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I've been a die hard Rangers and Giants fan for as long as I can remember. I enjoy sharing opinions, and hearing from fans that love their teams just as much as I do. Henrik Lundqvist makes all of us look like mere mortals. E-mail me at: