Winning makes it far easier to tune out all the noise.
That was the biggest takeaway from the Rangers’ season-best four-game winning streak — which includes an impressive sweep of the three-game road-trip through Winnipeg, Minnesota and Columbus. Making it five in a row will be a tall task, with the mighty Bruins coming into the Garden on Sunday afternoon.
And the Blueshirts are carrying three goalies in a situation all have dubbed “not ideal.” There is also a pesky date looming over all the work, as the trades to be made (or not) before the Feb. 24 deadline provide the context in which these games are being played. Along with the development of all the young players with whom so much of the Rangers’ future is staked, the big picture is complicated.
To avoid thinking about it, the Rangers have managed to find ways to win.
“That’s professional hockey. You’re going to have distractions — especially playing in New York,” Chris Kreider told The Post on Friday night, with his season peaking while his agent has serious discussions with general manager Jeff Gorton that could either lead to a new contract or a trade before the deadline. “There’s always something going on. Part of professional hockey is compartmentalizing whatever’s going on in your personal life.”
The lives of the three goaltenders have becoming increasingly complicated, as has the job of the man juggling those three, coach David Quinn. Of course there was a stir when Quinn declared 24-year-old Russian rookie Igor Shesterkin his No. 1, even with his explicit qualifier, “right now.” And of course Quinn bristled when the impact of that statement reverberated around the echo chamber.
Quinn didn’t say “he’s No. 1 right now because he’s starting today,” which had been stated previously. It was the coach saying Shesterkin was currently the club’s best option in goal — obvious to those who watched him win six of his first seven NHL starts, but still a statement no Rangers coach has uttered since Henrik Lundqvist took the net as a rookie in 2005-06.
Speaking of Lundqvist, how much longer will he amicably sign autographs from the bench and interact with fans during warmups before that gets old? He will turn 38 on March 2 and has one more year left on his contract. He has made just two starts in the five weeks since Shesterkin was called up on Jan. 6, by far his most dormant period while healthy in his illustrious 15-year career as the face of the franchise.
But then what to say of Alex Georgiev, another 24-year-old who ho-hummed his way to consecutive victories, and stated the obvious about playing time?
“I felt a little bit more sharp than the previous game,” Georgiev said Friday night, after making 36 saves in a sterling and steady performance at Columbus after he found his legs in making some game-saving saves late at Minnesota on Thursday. “It helps a lot for the confidence, playing in a couple days, a couple games.”
After a day off on Saturday, Shesterkin’s minor ankle injury could be healed enough to make him ready to play by Sunday. (He still is the No. 1, right? Or is that Georgiev now? Or will Lundqvist get thrown to the meat-grinder of the spoked-B?)
“You have to be ready whenever you get the chance to play,” Georgiev said. “Very important games for our team, and you have to be prepared every time.”
The Bruins are also one of the teams that could be acutely interested in Kreider as a rental at the deadline. And Pavel Buchnevich, who finally is playing with consistency away from the puck, finally shooting the puck more (six goals and 10 points in his past 10 games), playfully mentioned that he is No. 12 of TSN’s Trade Bait list, while Kreider is No. 1.
Of course, those are only more distractions.
“It’s about coming to the rink and working,” Kreider said, “because that’s the only thing you can control.”
That’s easier said than done, but winning surely helps the insulation.