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Rangers End First Half on a High Note

Henrik Lundqvist heads to All-Star Game after 40th career shutout



    Rangers End First Half on a High Note
    Getty Images
    Rolling into the All-Star break the way they've been rolling all season.

    If you wanted to come up with a game that best defined the Rangers of the first half of this hockey season, you could do a lot worse than putting Tuesday night's 3-0 win over the Jets up for consideration.

    You had a little bit of everything that has lifted the Rangers to the top spot in the Eastern Conference in evidence during the victory. Henrik Lundqvist didn't allow a goal, for starters, and it is impossible to discuss the success of this team without starting with the goalie who has lifted his game to its highest level this year.

    Lundqvist didn't have to make a ton of great saves on Tuesday -- teams named the Jets aren't known for offensive prowess in this neck of the woods -- but he made 10 of them in the third period to squelch any comeback hopes that might have been brewing in the bellies of the Winnepeg squad.

    One of them, a left pad stoning of Tanner Glass, was as good a save as you could hope to see and a reminder of just how good Lundqvist has been between the pipes this season.

    Lundqvist has been a big reason for the Rangers' success this season, but he isn't forced to carry games completely because he has a defense that works terribly hard in front of him.

    Dan Girardi, who couldn't be more deserving of the trip he's taking to the All-Star Game, blocked several shots and threw the body all night as part of a typically strong performance by the team's defensemen.

    Scoring hasn't been particularly pretty for the Rangers this season and they failed to click on the power play once again on Tuesday night, but they seem to find a way to get just enough pucks into the net every night to win.

    Ryan Callahan started the scoring with a goal off a rebound and set up Brad Richards for the final goal of the night, but it was a couple of other point scorers who best reflected the way this season has unfolded.

    John Mitchell, called up from Hartford with no fanfare early in the season, scored in the second period after once again getting an increase in minutes as a result of his energy early in the contest.

    Anton Stralman, plucked off of waivers to provide depth, set up Callahan's score with a shot on goal early and he's been an important piece this season because of all the injuries the Rangers have suffered on the blue line.

    Those two, along with Carl Hagelin and Stu Bickel, have provided the Rangers with a boost in spots that had the potential to be huge weaknesses on a team that isn't good enough to get no contributions from the bottom part of the roster.

    The overall talent level likely means the Rangers will have to make some moves to solidify their place at the top of the conference, but they'll need to be careful not to lose that top-to-bottom effort that has put them where they are at the break.

    It wasn't the most exciting night of hockey and felt sleepy at times compared to Saturday's thriller over the Bruins, but that's kinda been the way the Rangers have got it done all season. They hit, they grind, they take care of their own end and, one way or another, they find a way to flip the puck into the net.

    Sexy? Not at all, but it's effective and that's really all that matters after so many years of big names and miserable results at the Garden.

    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.