Thursday, April 7, 2011

Prust, Rangers Will Not Back Down From Challenge On McDonald Night

Nothing comes easy for the New York Rangers and while it would be fun to have it all locked up nice and tight with two games to go it just is not the way this franchise works.  It seems each year there is the late season dash for the playoffs and they either just get in or just miss and this season is no different.  With Carolina getting a huge two points off the Detroit Red Wings last night the Rangers backs are against the wall again as while they control their own destiny at this moment anything short of points tonight will change that fact.  The combination of the Steven McDonald award before the game and the first game following the loss of their leader and the desire to rally for Ryan Callahan will being a level of emotion to the building that will be palpable.  Throw in the playoff situation and Madison Square Garden will be alive tonight I expect the Rangers to come out fighting. 

With that as the backdrop for tonight’s game who better to look to for the spark the Rangers need than the likely winner of the Steven McDonald award, Brandon Prust.  For me Prust is the most qualified player to step into the roles Ryan Callahan plays on this team in terms of the energy and tenacity of play.  It is why he will be the one that unseats Callahan as the McDonald winner.  Expect Prust to come out and make sure the team is ready early on, as he did against Montreal when he fought Travis Moen one second into the game.  The response from the crowd and the team that night makes it likely that he puts in that extra effort again tonight, as he has all year, to add to the juice that should already be flowing through the building.  It is what warriors do. 

I highlight Prust and his ability to fight to spark the team, but his contributions go far beyond just that aspect of the game.  His ability to forecheck and cycle plays right into the system that the Rangers seek to play and he combines that with defensively responsible hockey, a willingness to hit, block shots and tremendous penalty killing.  Those are things the team will be looking to maintain in their identity and Prust will not let them forget it.

Early in the year the role for Prust was mainly as the protector for all of his teammates when the opposition stepped out of line, but that role has evolved into so much more on the ice.  Tonight it will take all the roles Prust can play in order to help the Rangers protect the playoff spot they have worked the last 80 games to give themselves the chance to control.  There has not been a challenge Prust has backed down from all year, so expect tonight to be no different.