Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thank you New York Rangers

I still don't know what to write. It's been a few days since the Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup chase. Of course, it's still agonizingly fresh in my mind. As much as it hurts, I want to congratulate the Devils on a great series. They were the better team. There's nothing wrong with admitting that. Especially given how resilient our club was, forcing them to win the last two games.

I will stand by what I said. Game Five was one of the greatest playoff experiences of my life. Sure. It ended with spiked kool aid poisoning every Blueshirt. But the way the Rangers fought is what made it worthwhile. That's the team we cheered for all season. The same one that caused a scare into Devil hearts when it rallied from a two-goal deficit in Game Six on the 18-Year Anniversary. Seeing Ryan McDonagh beat Ilya Kovalchuk and then spin around like Brian Leetch behind the net to set up Ruslan Fedotenko was enjoyable. Of course, Ryan Callahan came through with another gritty goal off the leg to tie it four and a half minutes later. That's what you expect from your leader.

Maybe it didn't turn out the way we wanted. But seeing our team take it to the Devils for the rest of regulation instilled pride. Brad Richards will have nightmares of Martin Brodeur stacking the pads with the whole top of the net gaping. Unfortunately, our leading scorer had a series to forget with it cruelly ending when he couldn't tuck a loose puck under Henrik Lundqvist. Adam Henrique scored perhaps the easiest goal you could score unless you saw Marian Gaborik's gaffe last year.

Sometimes, that's hockey. You don't always get the bounces. The Devils simple strategy worked. Throw pucks at the net and get traffic. Even if there was that Magic Bullet Theory goal Patrik Elias scored in Game Five. That play was also made by Henrique who shot. Maybe if our team had stopped overpassing, it would be them getting ready to play the "overhyped" Kings for Lord Stanley. A series that starts tomorrow and one I refuse to watch. I just can't do it. My Devil pal Andy asked how I could not and I replied "We just lost to you. I don't want to be reminded of hockey until October."

So, I'll sit this one out. The first Cup I won't see since I can't remember. Now, I know what Hasan meant after that excruciating loss to Carolina. There are times where your heart just sinks. For me, that moment came at 1:03 of sudden death when our guys turned a loose puck into a fire drill. If only Brandon Dubinsky had found a way to beat Brodeur some thirty seconds earlier. But like John Tortorella said to Stan Fischler about what's fair and unfair, "That's hockey."
There's an old Rolling Stone song that kind of applies to the '11-12 New York Rangers. "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Unfortunately, the get what you need part ain't working. I loved how our players handled such a bitter defeat. With class. They recognized the great season they had but also drove home the point that reaching the third round isn't enough. This organization won't be satisfied until the franchise wins its fifth Stanley Cup. A refreshing change from what Dolan sells with the Knicks. And one I've been driving home forever.

A lot of Devil fans rejoiced extra because it exorcised '94 demons. I get it. Some of our fans have given them crap over the years. And the '06 sweep wasn't a fair fight. This was the best way to get revenge. The sad part is most Ranger fans didn't care about 18 years ago or the silly anniversaries. The reason being is that 1994 has become annoying. I've hated it for a while. And now, maybe finally we won't have to hear about it from nonsensical New York columnists who know nothing about hockey. You can't live off a memory. That's what I love about this team. They want to create their own history.

It didn't happen this year. But if we've learned anything from the '95 Devils, it's that if at first you don't succeed, you can always dust yourself off and try again. Or the infamous lyrics of Aaliyah. Another one of my favorites. That Devil team lost in an even worse way possible. I'll save the details except to point out that how the Rangers lost was a little similar.

In the end, the bad starts killed us. You can't get outscored 8-1 in first periods and expect to win. It's hard to come back. Especially against a very good team like the Devils. And well, you saw our offense. Somehow, they scored one less goal despite zilch from the top line and Derek Stepan. Outside of Marian Gaborik's miracle, our top four weren't a factor. The Devils got contributions from everyone. It wasn't only Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, David Clarkson or Henrique. To be blunt, New Jersey doesn't win that series without the fourth line of Steve "Embellisher" Bernier, Stephen Gionta or Ryan Carter. They were fantastic. It was their goal that turned around Game Two and their heroics that doomed us in the final game played at MSG. And Carter got the Devs off to the right start in the clincher.

When it's their supporting cast along with leading Conn Smythe candidate Bryce Salvador, it tells you how hard it is to win. Everyone must contribute. Our fourth line wasn't good enough. Once Brian Boyle got hurt, he wasn't the same. Mike Rupp shouldn't be asked to play every game. That must change moving forward along with Tortorella's reliance on the top four on the back end. These are holes Glen Sather needs to address along with another scorer. Though I'd rather not contemplate that.

At the beginning of the year, many experts thought our team would finish between fourth and eighth. That's where I had them. But I probably was one of the few who took them to the Conference Finals. Go figure. I just never envisioned that it would be against our No.1 rival. That's why it hurts so much. It should. I hope our players remember how close they were. That despite the Devils controlling 12 of 19 periods, the latest Battle Of Hudson was winnable. They must use it as motivation for '12-13. A year that I believe can be special.

For the final time, thank you Rangers for a great season. I still Believe. Let's Go Rangers Let's Go Rangers Let's Go Rangers

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