Chris Drury is not the type of player who seeks out the spotlight, but he unquestionably shines the brightest when the stage is the biggest.
Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals was no exception. The Rangers jumped out to an early 2-0 series lead before the Caps notched a win in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden. With New York on the verge of losing the series momentum, Drury scored the eventual game-winner at 2:23 of the second period to give the Blueshirts a commanding 3-1 series lead.
|Rangers captain Chris Drury has always had a knack for scoring big goals. His 17 playoff game-winning goals are the sixth-highest total in league history. |
Drury’s knack for coming up big in pressure situations earned him the nickname “Mr. Clutch” long before joining the NHL. At the age of 13, he led his Trumbull, Conn., team to the 1989 Little League World Series. Drury pitched a complete game, five-hitter to propel his hometown team to the championship over Taiwan.
Years later, he was instrumental in guiding Boston University to the 1995 NCAA National Championship in ice hockey as a freshman. In his final season in Boston, Drury was named the winner of the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player. Drury was the first player in school history to score both 100 goals and 100 assists in a career at BU.
Winning did not stop following Drury after entering the NHL in 1998-99 with the Colorado Avalanche. He earned the Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year, which marked the first time a player has won both the Hobey Baker Award and Calder Memorial Trophy.
In just his third season in the league, Drury was a vital piece of the puzzle that brought the Stanley Cup to Denver in 2001. He was fourth on the Avs in playoff scoring with 16 points.
Over the course of his 10 years in the league, Drury excelled when the game and, for that matter, the season was on the line. In his seven previous postseason appearances, he netted 16 game-winning goals. Add in Game Four’s goal and Drury now has 17 career game-winner goals in the second season.
The word intangible is often thrown around too loosely in sports. But one of the main reasons Rangers President Glen Sather strongly pursued Drury as a free agent prior to the 2007-08 season was for his unmistakable ability to win wherever he has gone. A quality Sather hoped would permeate the Rangers locker room, especially to the younger players with limited postseason experience.
“We gained some experience last year with all the young guys jumping in to the Jersey series and then Pittsburgh,” Drury said after a recent practice. “They picked up a lot of experience.
“You never dream about playing a game in October,” he continued. “In your backyard, you’re dreaming about the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Enjoy it and have fun. This is why we worked starting in September. Just leave it all out there.”
The other reason Sather highly coveted Drury was for his ability to lead a team through adversity and to a championship. Drury served as team captain both at Boston University and the Buffalo Sabres prior to being named the 25th captain in Rangers history on October 3, 2008.
“I’ve been blessed to have played with some great leaders, going back to college, rookie year and straight through,” he said. “I’ve had some great guys to look up to and hopefully that’s rubbing off on some guys here.”
The experience Drury has gained over his decade in the NHL has taught him one immutable fact: never look ahead. With the Rangers holding a series lead, his message to teammates is to take one shift at a time.
“Our goal coming into camp, as I’m sure it was for the 29 other teams, was to win the Cup,” he said. “We did the first part by getting into the playoffs. As far as big picture, I think you get into trouble if you starting thinking about that.”
With Drury leading the troops, there is little question that his teammates will be focused on the task at hand and if a big goal is needed, “Mr. Clutch” will happily take center stage.