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The Rangers Keep on Rising

First place in the East is theirs after fifth straight win

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Mar 29, 2012  |  Updated 11:37 AM EDT
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The Islanders couldn't tear down the Lundqvist Wall on Monday night.

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Glen Sather's tenure as the man running the Rangers has been more frustrating than successful.

Since he took over, the team has won two playoff series and missed the playoffs as often as they've made them. He's made truly awful free agent signings and didn't hit any early home runs in the draft when the team earned high picks as a result of their shameful records.

He wasn't well-liked by the faithful and the hostility was well deserved. But James Dolan never kicked him out the door, which meant that there was always a chance of redemption for Sather.

This might be the year he gets it because the one thing that keeps coming through about this year's Rangers team is that they are perfectly constructed to turn John Tortorella's wishes into points. And, beyond that, they are proving to be deep enough to handle the cruel bounces of the NHL season.

Monday's 3-0 victory over the Islanders was a perfect example of the latter point. Carl Hagelin, summoned from Connecticut earlier this season, scored two goals and the Rangers came up with a shutout while playing without four of their top seven defensemen.

Henrik Lundqvist had a lot to do with that shutout, obviously, but the way the Rangers haven't missed a beat this season despite a terrible run of injuries on defense is a testament to how much these Rangers have changed from the ones early in Sather's tenure. It's not all about the stars, anymore.

Yes, Marian Gaborik, the league's leading goal scorer, has seven goals in five games and Brad Richards has a shiny new contract, but it has been as much about Brian Boyle blocking shots and Ryan McDonagh shutting down opposing forwards as it has been about the names that everyone recognizes.

And it has been about Michael Del Zotto, the once-reviled Del Zaster who the Rangers have stuck with long enough to reap a ridiculous amount of rewards. Del Zotto set up both Hagelin goals last night and has now been on the ice for 54 of the team's 101 goals this season, a ridiculous statistic that says everything you need to know about his impact on this team this season.

It's a team that deserves all the attention they are getting from HBO and all the attention they will get next Monday from NBC. Some of that attention should spill over to the guy who brought all of them to New York.

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.

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