NEW YORK -- There wasn't an NHL team that had more of a chance to use distractions as an excuse for poor play this year than the New York Rangers.
They opened the season with a two-week trek through Europe as part of the NHL Premiere Series. Upon their return to the United States, their home, Madison Square Garden, was still undergoing renovations, which meant another long road swing through Western Canada.
That wasn't the end of it, as the Rangers welcomed HBO's "24/7" cameras into their lives for a month in the buildup to the Winter Classic, another event that takes players out of their routines.
Rangers coach John Tortorella said Thursday that when his team's hockey life finally returned to normal in January and there wasn't a letdown, he knew he was involved in something special.
"When they left, that's when we gained some normalcy in our room," Tortorella said. "We still have three and a half months to play, and I just watched how our guys went about their business. I was worried about a letdown when the cameras left. I was happy with the way we won (the Winter Classic). That really helped our confidence, and then we just kept on going. That's when I felt we could do something."
The Rangers went on to win the Atlantic Division and capture the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and Tortorella said it all started with the trip to Europe to open the season.
"I think that really helped us as a team and to speed up the process of trying to win consistently and being consistent," Tortorella said. "I thought we were consistent in how we went about our gameday business. That's one thing about this group. Not once this year -- and coaches do it all the time -- did we have to go out there and kick the hell out of them because you didn’t get enough out of them the night before to just make sure you get the message across."
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