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Saturday, April 9, 2011
Donnie Pucks: What comes around goes around

By Don La Greca

Last year the New York Rangers let it slip through their fingers -- a shootout loss to the rival Philadelphia Flyers and a summer to sit and stew.

This year was different.

Not that they didn't sweat it out. As a matter of fact, they took the long road and put their fans through hell.

After a 3-0 loss to the Thrashers on Thursday, it looked like it was all happening again. Then fans almost needed a doctor after falling behind 2-1 after one against the Devils on Saturday afternoon.

But in the end, thanks to a stellar final two periods versus Jersey and a Lightning win in Carolina, the Rangers are in the playoffs as a scary team to play.

Forgotten now are the losses to the Islanders, Senators and Thrashers. Brushed aside are the struggles at home, the ups and downs of the power play, the lack of consistent offense and the games lost to injury.

It may not have come down to the last day if Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal hadn't missed a collective 73 games. 

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. This team took every punch all season. It was pushed by its coach every day and is better for it.

Some may say that the Rangers backed in thanks to the Hurricanes' loss to the Lightning. But when you watched this team all year, you saw how hard the Rangers worked. They didn't back in. They kicked the door down.

The Blueshirts went against their recent history. Instead of signing vets and trading prospects for hired guns, they went young. They gave major minutes to Derek Stepan, Michael Sauer, Ryan McDonaugh and Mats Zuccarello. It paid off. In other years, it would have failed.

No matter what happens in the playoffs, what all those kids went through and will go through will prepare them for the future. The future has not looked this bright in a long time.

Also don't forget about the return of Chris Drury on Saturday. How big was that goal to tie the game? He's got a knack for big goals and returns just in time for the playoffs.

We have a few days to break down how the Rangers match up with the Caps. For now, Rangers fans -- enjoy. Last year is now a distant memory.