If there was any uncertainty that the makeup and style of play deployed by the Rangers throughout the regular season would have difficulty transitioning to the vigor and tightness of the postseason, it was put to rest in their six-game victory over the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We got a lot of questions about that going to the playoffs, if we're a playoff-type, grinding out team or if we can handle it," defenseman Marc Staal said. "I think we answered those questions in this series. I thought everyone stepped up, played hard, finished our checks and took hits to make plays. All those things you need to do to win a series, we did. It was a lot of fun."
The Rangers finished the series with 285 hits, the second-most the team has recorded in one playoff round since the NHL began tracking hits in the 1997-98 season. It was just two behind the franchise record 287 the Blueshirts racked up against Washington in 2013.
In addition to the body checks, the series saw three fights - including unlikely foes Jimmy Vesey and Max Pacioretty in Game 6 - which is another anomaly from both these squads from the regular season. According to HockeyFights.com, the Rangers were 25th in the NHL in fighting majors with 16 in 82 games, two spots and three fights behind Montreal's 19.
"It was hard-fought battles for six games going against the same line every game," Vesey said following his bout in Game 6, which had The Garden crowd chanting the rookie's last name. "Me and Pacioretty have had some battles over the last couple games and I guess it came to that tonight.
"Good feeling," Vesey added. "I had my jersey off and the crowd screaming my name was pretty cool."
"I love that [Vesey] didn't back down," Derek Stepan said. "Pacioretty is a heckuva player. Jimmy didn't back from him and it was a good fight for both of them. Give Pacioretty credit too. He stepped right in there. It was a good fight and good for the game."
Defenseman Brendan Smith said the edge displayed by his team in the six games against Montreal was a trait he didn't know much about before arriving in New York at the deadline. He said that added element is just another layer of what makes the Rangers such a dangerous team moving forward in the tournament.
"Coming to the Rangers I knew they were fast and skilled and I didn't really know what to expect, but as I played more and more games I could see we had that element," said Smith, who fought Andrew Shaw in Game 5. "We are big and strong and we're very fast as well. It's like we can play any style and it's a testament to the organization and a testament to the coaches and the system and everything.
"It's pretty good," Smith added. "I enjoyed myself obviously. You watch me out there - first of all I love winning and I love being a part of these guys."