It's never easy is it?
The New York Rangers always seem to need a dogfight to get into the playoffs these days. And while it might send Rangers fans into stress-induced fits of rage, it makes for good hockey.
Regardless, the goal remains the same: to make the playoffs. And for the Rangers the key to accomplishing that goal lies with Bryan McCabe.
Yes, his booming slap shot, ability to soak up big pressure minutes and his toughness will be a big help down the stretch for the Rangers. But it's another aspect of his game which the Rangers will lean on heavily as they continue their frantic finish towards the playoffs.
It's his leadership.
Join me after the jump for more.
Let's start with McCabe's roots. He was drafted by the Islanders, but spent seven years in Toronto; one of the only cities on the planet who's pressure and media suffocation could compare to New York's. He was brought up on microscopic analysis of his game, nearly foaming from the mouth fans and the incredable pressure to make the playoffs on a yearly basis.
Now, anyone can play in that type of environment. But to thrive in that kind of environment is a different story.
McCabe's career with Toronto wont get his number retired, but it will raise some eyebrows. McCabe registered 297 points in 523 games sporting a Toronto jersey. He also notched 26 points in 51 playoff games. And while no NHL arena will be louder and crazier then MSG in the playoffs, the ACC comes close.
So as the Rangers prepare to play the final three games of the regular season, which will come as close to a playoff atmosphere as you can get, you better believe that John Tortorella knows he has a grizzled veteran on the bench at his disposal.
We've talked also season about how great the kids have been. And there's no debating that Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov, Mats Zuccarello, Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh have brought to New York this season. But when playoff games roll around it's a different hockey game.
McCabe will be an ace in the hole for Tortorella in these final three games, and in the playoffs (if the Rangers make them). McCabe has always been a leader in his career, no one will ever tell you differently, and it's his leadership that will help settle the youth when the ship is rocking.
There is no way of accurately articulating how much better a player looks who's "been there before." It was one of the biggest cards Chris Drury had in his pocket, and one of the biggest losses the Rangers suffered when he hit the shelf.
It helps that McCabe is a defenseman as well. This is one of the youngest defensive corps in the league, and that's a tremendous double edged sword. Especially when you consider that Sauer and McDonagh have never played a full NHL season (at least not yet for Sauer) let alone a playoff game.
And while one could point to Marc Staal as being an experience defenseman on the Rangers roster, I would argue McCabe's big game experience trumps it.
Still, there's no debating that Staal is a big part of the Rangers defense and has some big game experience. It's a good thing and it's also something a team can never have enough of.
Still, McCabe will play a big role in the Rangers hopes to make the playoffs and, if they make it, their playoff hopes. But he can't do it alone, he needs help from the entire team, including the youngins.
It's never easy, is it?