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The Rangers Are Ready for Their Closeup

Rangers take two over the weekend to continue their torrid streak

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Sunday night was Derek Stepan's time to shine.

    The Rangers must feel nervous that they aren't going to wind up making good television when they make their HBO debut this week.

    As we all know, good drama requires conflict or obstacles to overcome with great difficulty and the Rangers haven't had much of either recently.

    They crushed the Panthers 6-1 at the Garden on Sunday night, completing a weekend sweep in grand fashion after making a short hop to Buffalo for a 4-1 win on Saturday.

    Singling out individual players for the two wins isn't easy because everyone who stepped on the ice played awfully well, but Sunday night's biggest star was probably Derek Stepan. He scored one of the prettier goals you'll see all year on a shorthanded (when the play started, anyway), end-to-end rush that ended with Stepan firing high for a spectacular goal.

    He added another goal and an assist later in the contest, capping a terrific night and continuing an outstanding season. He had lots of help, though, and the story of this current Rangers hot streak is how widespread the good play has been.

    Michael Del Zotto is playing like the player the team hoped he'd be two years ago, Carl Hagelin has gone from unknown to indispensable and even Erik Christensen played well Sunday after being scratched for the last eight games.

    With that, we loop back to the team's possible fear that they aren't going to give HBO enough dramatic fodder in front of the premiere of Winter Classic 24/7 on Wednesday night.

    Christensen's return to the lineup came at the expense of Sean Avery, a player whose career has contained enough drama for a few seasons of his own show on cable.

    Avery's arrival from the minors coincided with the team's rapid rise in the standings -- they've won 14 of 18 -- and it wasn't hard to find those who thought the infusion of energy Avery provides helped turn the season around.

    Energy or not, Avery hasn't played all that much and it seems pretty clear people were grasping at facts that were not in evidence when it came to the correlation between winger and record.

    Still, benching him generates some buzz and that can only help balance out what might be a very bland episode full of players modestly commenting about how well the team is playing at present. 

    Watching teams win can be enjoyable, so long as you do it Friday Night Lights style and have them pull out games in miraculous (or Giants-like) fashion in the final seconds. But the Rangers are just routing folks and that doesn't translate all that well.

    It can be the best of both worlds, though. The games make for compelling TV by themselves while there should be enough other stuff -- Avery's benching, Artem Anisimov's celebration, John Tortorella being John Tortorella -- to make HBO's offering a winner as well.

    Is there nothing these Rangers can't do?

    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.