WASHINGTON — Much has been made of the types of players the Rangers targeted in the offseason, as well as how the team has emphasized its commitment to playing a grittier style than in years past.
What hasn’t received nearly as much attention is the way individual players have spoken about the drastic change in the vibe surrounding the Blueshirts compared to years past.
Every preseason, there’s an abundance of cliché quotes that pour out of every NHL team about how organizations are heading in the right direction, teams are meshing together and the feel-good atmosphere in each locker room.
For the Rangers, however, players have been forthright about there being a totally different feeling under new head coach Gerard Gallant and general manager-president Chris Drury — particularly in contrast to former bench boss David Quinn’s three-year regime.
“There’s an energy that I don’t think has necessarily been there the last however many years,” Chris Kreider said Tuesday before the team left for the Wednesday night season opener against the Capitals. “There’s always a good energy in training camp, but this team feels different. It feels great.”
Kreider, who was appointed assistant captain along with five others, harped on the Rangers’ goal of being able to play any style this season. No matter who the Rangers play, Kreider said the team knows it’s capable of getting up ice, creating chances and odd-man rushes.
Those are certainly aspects of the game that Quinn stressed in the past, but it sounds as if the Rangers have a whole new brand of motivation.
“We’ve got that desire to play low and the desire to get pucks to the net that we might not have had the last couple of years,” Kreider said. “We can grind it out, if and when we need to. I think we’ve got a really good blend [of players], up and down throughout the entire group.”
Maybe it has to do with the new makeup of the lineup, which had its bottom six completely remodeled with heavy-hitting players that play a grinding style. The Rangers may now feel they are capable of playing a hard-nosed game. Or, new management has just given the team an opportunity to start fresh.
“I don’t think it’s like line brawls or anything like that,” Ryan Strome joked of the Rangers’ new style Wednesday morning. “I thought there were times in the preseason where we saw some of the guys go out there and change the pace, tone of the game. I think it’s a trickle-down effect, you see those guys do it and it trickles through the lineup.
“I don’t think it’s a big new thing, you’re going to see, I just think it’s more or less just we’ve got guys with a little bit of bite and they’re going to go out there and have a little bit more pushback. Like I said, it’ll trickle down.”
Whatever prompted such significant change to the team’s attitude, the Rangers have proclaimed that things are different now. It’s yet to be seen if the Blueshirts are different, too.
“I think we’re in such a good place right now, compared to last season,” Strome said. “Just really excited to get things going. The anticipation has been all summer long and the preseason felt like forever. So just glad it’s here with the new guys and we’re ready to go with this group.”