The Importance Of Momentum

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 06: Derek Stepan #21 and Marian Gaborik #10 of the New York Rangers celebrate after Stepan scored a third period goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the NHL game at Consol Energy Center on January 6, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Rangers defeated the Penguins 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers are on a respectable four-game winning streak, something that has helped the Rangers open up a four-point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers in the Atlantic Division. The Rangers are also first in the Eastern Conference and first in the NHL at this point in the season.

But it's not just about the Rangers' standing within the league or even within the conference right now. It's about who they are beating.

Going back to December 20th, the Rangers have played divisional opponents six times. New York is 6-0 in those games, beating the Flyers and New York Islanders twice and the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New Jersey Devils once. The Rangers have also outscored their opponents 21-8 in those six wins.

Join me after the jump for more.

The victories, which have helped propel the Rangers into a nine wins in 10 games stretch, also also giving the Rangers a mountain of confidence in John Tortorella's system and the philosophies this team is pounding into their daily game. Yes, Henrik Lundqvist has bailed the Rangers out on multiple occasions this year, but I'm not apologizing for Lundqvist's fantastic play. He's a New York Ranger, he's supposed to keep the puck out of the net.

More importantly, however, is that the Rangers know they can hang with pretty much anyone in the league. The team behind the Rangers in the league standings? The Vancouver Canucks, who the Rangers beat 4-0 earlier in the year.

In fact, the only elite team in the East the Rangers haven't matched up with is the Boston Bruins. That game will come January 21st at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers will also play the Chicago Blackhawks (5th in the NHL as of Saturday night) on February 16th.

The Rangers won't play again until Tuesday when they host the Phoenix Coyotes. But over the past few weeks the team, has gained some serious momentum.

Momentum does a lot of things, but it helps keeps players mentally strong over the course of a season. But momentum isn't given, it's earned.

Right now, the Rangers are earning every inch of it.

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