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No Goals Are No Problem for Rangers

No goals until the shootout winds up working out for the Rangers.

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    When the King is on, the puck stops here.

    Old-time hockey gets a decidedly new school twist these days.

    The shootout has been around a few years now so we're all pretty well used to it, but it still feels wrong to decide a game like Wednesday night's Rangers-Sabres affair with a glorified skills contest.

    Ryan Miller and Henrik Lundqvist had stopped every conventional shot thrown their way through 65 minutes of 0-0 hockey and they deserve better than having to stop a bunch more because the NHL thinks having a loser, albeit one that gets a point, is vitally important.

    It was the second straight night that the shootout came into play and the Rangers prevailed this time when Ryan Callahan beat Miller five rounds into the proceedings. That made it three points in back-to-back road games, a strong result at any point in the season but especially coming out of the All-Star break to start the grind toward the playoffs.

    If you're feeling pessimistic, the game was an illustration of how hard a time the Rangers can have putting the puck in the net (although it bears mentioning that they scored three times in Jersey the night before) and how much that can come back to hurt them down the stretch. It is hard to watch Brad Richards, Brandon Dubinsky and other guys counted on for goal-scoring on nights like this and it puts a ridiculous amount of pressure on Lundqvist.

    But you can go out and get another guy to score goals at the trade deadline a lot more easily than you can get a player like Lundqvist or the kind of hard-working hockey team that the Rangers were in Buffalo. Turning every loose puck into a battle, many of which they win, and challenging every square inch of ice have been hallmarks of the Rangers this season.

    You don't win in the playoffs without that kind of effort and you don't survive the stretch run in the NHL without being able to fight harder than opponents who are all grinding to get at least a point a night to keep their playoff hopes as bright as possible. That ethos helped the team kill off two penalties in the final five minutes of regulation as well as a 5-on-3 in the first period, any of which would have been disastrous if the team broke down.

    And then there's Lundqvist, whose game seems to have no ceiling this season as it keeps rising and rising. His save on Brad Boyes in the shootout was a thing of immense beauty that exemplified his general run of play at the moment. 

    Lundqvist has four shutouts in his last 18 games and he's allowed no more than one goal in 10 of those contests. You can ride goaltending play like that to all kinds of wonderful places, especially when it comes with a relentless defense in front of it and that's just what the Rangers have.

    More goals would be nice, of course, but it's hard not to like everything that's going on with this team.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.