Rangers Reach Halfway Point on Upward Swing

Sunday afternoon finds the Rangers as good as they've been all year

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Boyle finally struck up the band on Sunday.

    In a 48-game sprint of a season, every regular season game feels considerably larger than it would as part of a longer slate. 

    So, too, do the streaks and skids that go on over the course of several games. Any string of three or four similar performances in a row feels like it threatens to become the story of your season. 

    The Rangers have had a few different stretches like that already this year, starting the year in a sort of ineffectual fog before a losing streak that made it seem like the team lost their essential mojo from last year's smashing success story. And then Rick Nash returned from a concussion and the team's won five of their last six games to reach the halfway point looking the best that they've looked all year. 

    Sunday's 4-1 win over the Capitals was one of the best performances of the year so far. They fell behind after an early goal by the Caps, shook it off and dominated the play over the final 50 minutes for a win that made it seem like the Rangers have finally settled into the groove that was eluding them in the early weeks. 

    Nash had a pair of assists, continuing the streak that shows no sign of ending, and Brian Boyle scored for the first time in what's been a miserable season for him thus far, but the two guys who made the strongest impact on Sunday afternoon were the two guys named Ryan. Callahan had a goal, McDonagh had two assists and both of them were the hit-throwing, shot-blocking, battle-winning dervishes that have taken on leadership roles on the Rangers over the last couple of seasons. 

    Those battles along the wall show that fortunes have changed for the Blueshirts. They're winning more of them than they are losing, keeping John Tortorella from being too exasperated and setting themselves up for better chances when they win the puck and the chance to carry it into the opposing zone. 

    With 24 games left to play, there's plenty of work that needs to be done for the Rangers to get where they want to go this season. After the first 24 games, especially after the final six games, the feeling that they can get to those places are as strong as they've been at any point this season. 

    Not a bad way to reach the halfway point, no matter how long a season you're playing. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.