Rangers’ Stanley Cup playoff run fueled by team’s great chemistry

TAMPA, Fla. — Go ahead and try to get a Rangers player to talk about himself.

Good luck with that.

There’s as much of a chance that will happen as the Lightning have had trying to score against Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin.

Rangers crediting teammates has become a regular occurrence during their magical ride through the Stanley Cup playoffs — with the next stop 3 p.m. Sunday against the Lightning in Game 3 of the conference final at Amalie Arena, where they’ll try to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.

After a 6-2 Rangers win in Game 1 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, Mika Zibanejad, who has become a consistent sniper from the circle in these playoffs, was asked about his big night, which included a brilliant fake-slap-shot feed to Chris Kreider for the first goal and a rocket off his own stick for the last goal.

He proceeded to spend a few moments crediting every other player around him and said not a word about himself.

Rangers center Tyler Motte congratulates goaltender Igor Shesterkin.
Rangers center Tyler Motte congratulates goaltender Igor Shesterkin.
USA TODAY Sports

After Game 2 on Friday night, when Kaapo Kakko scored a go-ahead goal in the 3-2 win on a marvelous feed from defenseman Adam Fox, he spent his entire answer about that goal naming every other player that was on the ice with him on that shift and talked about how easy his job was to tip the puck into the net.

The Rangers’ chemistry is real. It’s evident everywhere on the team. And, the deeper the Rangers get into these playoffs the more of an asset that becomes. The trust is palpable.

“I noticed it from Day 1,’’ center Tyler Motte, who was acquired in a March 21 trade with Vancouver, said Saturday of this team’s uncanny chemistry.

“Actually,’’ Motte corrected himself, “before Day 1. Within 10 minutes of being traded I had multiple texts from guys welcoming me aboard, saying they were excited to have me be a part of the group.

“That just goes to show the character of the people we have in the locker room and in the organization,’’ Motte went on. “That has always shown on the ice. You’ve got guys always giving credit to the next guy. That’s an important attribute to have. There’s obviously one goal in mind and if everyone is pushing toward that one goal the odds are you’re going to have more success at it.’’

The Rangers, who haven’t hoisted the Stanley Cup since 1994, are two wins away from playing in the finals.

“I think from Day 1 there was chemistry on our team,’’ Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said Saturday from the team hotel. “The guys have been disappointed the last few years not being in the playoffs, not making a good run. From Day 1, a lot of those veteran guys stepped up and helped their group and brought the kids along. There’s a lot of kids on our team, but they took big steps for us.

“Our veteran guys are very good, talented hockey players, but they brought everyone together and that what’s important. Guys are buying in. All the little things matter now, and that’s what we’re doing a better job of so far.

“Helps me a lot. Coaches can’t be in there all the time telling them what to do, this and that. When you’ve got veteran leadership in there doing that that’s when you know you’ve got a good hockey team, a good group.’’

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