Rangers Look Better, But Test Will Come Sunday

The accounts of the Rangers' 4-2 win on Long Island Thursday night were fairly breathless in their adulation for the Blueshirts. Jay Greenberg of the New York Post called them "a team that can't wait to win instead of being afraid to lose." Vic Ziegel of the Daily News dripped accolades on Sean Avery for the way he changed the team's personality in a single night.

Very rarely was mention made of the fact that the Rangers looked pretty mediocre for long stretches against a league-worst Islanders team that was playing four guys called up from Bridgeport earlier in the day. Or that their previous win came against the Avalanche, also known as the West's closest approximation of the Islanders. Wins are wins, of course, but they aren't all created equal.

Let's wait and see what happens when the Eastern Conference leading Bruins come to the Garden on Sunday afternoon. The Rangers are 0-5 in matinees this season, so the game will provide the clearest test yet to John Tortorella's motivational abilities. It will also help let us know if Avery's presence can elevate the team's game when the opponents aren't simply in awe of playing in the NHL.

The last month of the Ranger season has seen each game blown up to epic proportions because of the Avery watch and Tom Renney's tenuous job situation. That's still happening. The Rangers have 17 games left and are three points clear of the ninth-place team after those two wins. There's still a long way to go, which needs to be kept in perspective before deciding that all is well in Rangerland.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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