Ryan McDonagh stood by his dressing room stall Thursday at the MSG Training Center and spoke of how "refreshing" the Rangers two outdoor games this week have been--a change in the daily routine that can become a grind this time of year during a long 82-game schedule.
He was quick to point out, however, that with four points secured outdoors, he and his teammates are more than ready to return to their usual routine for the final four games before the Olympic break.
"It's been unique, refreshing, especially in the second half of the year where it can get tough mentally at times," McDonagh said of the change of pace the previous five days which began with an outdoor practice and family skate at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. "It was refreshing, no better way to put it, but you can't forget that (each game) there were two points on the line, and that's what the beauty of our group is that we enjoyed it--took in that practice day with family and friends--but when it was game time the focus was to bear down and get the job done."
McDonagh's thoughts about the team's approach were echoed throughout the Rangers room Thursday--and in previous days--with the likes of Ryan Callahan, Henrik Lundqvist, Derick Brassard, Dominic Moore, and Alain Vigneault among those saying positive things about the Blueshirts approach to the Yankee Stadium experience.
"I had been saying for weeks that to make this a truly memorable experience we needed to get the four points, winning was so important," explained Lundqvist, who backstopped both victories. "You wanted to look back on this one day and have great memories, and the only way to do that was to win."
After the high of two exciting wins in a rollicking outdoor experience, the Rangers must keep their level of intensity up as they close the pre-Olympic portion of their schedule with four games in the next week, starting with Friday's home-ice rematch with the Islanders. Dom Moore stated Thursday that the Blueshirts need to "keep pressing down on the pedal", not let up, over these next four games before the arrival of a three-week break between games.
The Rangers will host the Islanders, Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche before facing the Penguins in Pittsburgh next Friday then arrive at the Olympic break, though the players again emphasized Thursday that their sole focus is on beating the Isles again since it's the next game on the schedule.
"That's a team that can strike at will," McDonagh said of the Islanders. "They have a core group of guys, just like us, that play hard for each other. Their chemistry is coming together fast, so we're going to have to play another real strong game against them (on Friday)."
While there was some reflection Thursday, and shared memories from the Stadium Series, the 7-3 and 2-1 victories are what Vigneault and his troops are most proud of right now, and those are the most tangible things they will carry from their two games in the Bronx. Now it's time to keep moving forward.
"I look forward to be back in The Garden, even though these two experiences have been amazing and I loved every minute," said Lundqvist. "The Garden is still The Garden."