Before we examine the statement he made to me as I angrily pushed the exit door with the Sabres closing out a cruel 3-2 win I sadly predicted over our heroes, let's vent a little about what bothered me. Here it came. After
Truth be told, I love this team. I enjoy their grit and willingness to compete till the final buzzer. Our guys are never out of a game. Even with all the agitating slow starts which have become increasingly too common during a stretch that's seen them drop eight of 10 one-goal decisions, coming back to the pack. Heck. It wouldn't be all too surprising if both Toronto and New Jersey finished ahead of us. There's only so much my stomach can handle. The very thought that the Devils, who appeared to be tanking before the craziest role reversal hands down, could wind up with a better record than our team is inconceivable. It defies logic. But then again, when did that ever apply to a league that rewards mediocrity? Maybe all the three-point wins we benefited from have caught up. The Rangers don't win in regulation anymore. So, it was either miraculously beat Ryan Miller and steal the extra point or have nothing to show for their effort.
There's the buzz word Mikey used to describe the New York Rangers history. As I stormed out, he said:
"Why do you even get mad anymore? Eighty-six years of mediocrity."
How could one debate such an accurate statement? When it comes to our franchise, since breaking The Curse in '94, the Blueshirts have been past the second round once when Messier and Gretzky reunited some 14 years ago. In fact, our team has qualified for the postseason seven times total. There was '95-97 and then a giant hole in the middle before returning from '06-09. Horrible would be a way to describe it. At what point do we Garden Faithful finally get fed up? Less and less true fans are showing up lately. Every year starts out the same. With promise like Lindros' first year that had us in first before one phantom hit and a Brian Leetch injury derailed that season. The only time we really could get excited was that little run they made to the Conference Semis, having rallied from 0-2 down and were 3:00 away from bringing it back to MSG for a chance at a dream. Then Tom Renney happened and it fell apart.
So I ask as this 85th Year Anniversary season is in limbo, who thinks this nuts and bolts team is capable of one more push in its final 17 games to become what one Lightning Tweep termed as a "dangerous opponent" come Spring? I wish I had belief. Yesterday was the first time I felt sad walking out of the Garden. Almost resigned to our fate. Sure. As excellent Daily News team reporter Jesse Spector put, it's not about this year. It never has been. I know that. However, there's something cool about this team. Seeing mostly homegrown kids wearing the logo with pride as they try to pull this off. No longer are we fat cat$. A term passed around like a Kick Me sign in grade school. This is bigger than Marian Gaborik feeling better after one practice today.
Instead, it's about Dubinsky. Callahan. Staal. Girardi. Lundqvist. McDonagh. Sauer. Gilroy. Anisimov. Stepan. Zuccarello. Del Zotto whenever he gets back. Count 'em up naysayers. Toss in heart and soul warriors like Boyle and Prust and that's 14. For those that thought it couldn't be done in these parts, that doesn't seem to be the case here. Defiance and resiliency are two terms that have epitomized this 85th Ranger version. They've battled through injuries and beyond to get where they are. In the standings, the 70 points are still good enough for seventh with the Hurricanes right behind with extra games and Buffalo three out with the same edge.
How many games will it take for our guys to get back in? I always believed they'd need 92. But 90 is probably the cutoff. Can a team that's played its butt off for John Tortorella all year win 10 of the final 17? I still think so. There's enough character in that room to get it done. Time to rise up.