Monday, June 18, 2012

'11-12: Top 10 Rangers Moments

Summer is here and it's kinda hard to believe. The Stanley Cup is now part of Kings lore. Congratulations to them on finally winning after 45 years. Now St. Louis, Toronto, Buffalo, Vancouver and Washington have the longest droughts. Four of the five having never won while the Leafs continue to be haunted by 1967.

It's a lot to digest during the offseason along with the irksome Nash rumors that won't go away. I guess it'll continue this Draft weekend where there could be some activity. Friday is the first round with the blitz coming Saturday. The NHL will also be handing awards to this season's best Thursday in Vegas. Other than Henrik Lundqvist vying for two trophies with only one realistic against Conn Smythe winner Jon Quick, that's the only interest I have. The award show is cheesy anyway.

This was a great year for the Rangers. Their first Atlantic Division title since '93-94 and a trip to the Conference Finals before falling to bitter Hudson rival New Jersey. It was nice to see our Blueshirts play serious playoff hockey. A fun roller coaster ride from the seven-game wins over Ottawa and Washington right to the bitter conclusion. All season, they manned up earning the best record in the East. No small feat. Especially in the toughest division. When four teams finish with over 100 points, that tells you how competitive our division is. Maybe one day the Islanders will join the chaos.

It would be easy to still be upset about how the season ended. But it's been a few weeks and the worst part is over. At the end of the day, we can be proud of our team for showing that they should be heard from. With a young core featuring Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Brandon Dubinsky (cue the rumors), Artem Anisimov, Mike Del Zotto, Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider, the future is bright. Indeed, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik should have help as our players mature. This was a good first step which they can learn from.

In thinking back on '11-12, I'm extremely proud of our team. One that I find myself so excited about. I miss them more than any other offseason. Before Gary Bettman and his cronies along with Don Fehr try to ruin '12-13, let's take a look at some of the best Rangers moments.

'11-12: TOP 10 RANGERS MOMENTS

10.October 18, 2011 What's A Canuck Rangers 4 Canucks 0-Many curious observers had their eye on this one at Vancouver. It was against the defending Western Conference champs and figured to be a must watch. With our team still winless following a bitter loss at Long Island, how would they respond? Rather Lundqvist who was at his absolute best denying the Sedins and their bag of tricks due to a ridiculous amount of undisciplined penalties. Some of which raised the eye brow. If ever there was a moment that defined these Blueshirts, it was during eight Vancouver power plays when they couldn't get one past Hank. Then came a third period onslaught on Roberto Luongo with Gabby and McD tallying half the output that also saw Brian Boyle and Rupp get on the scoreboard.

9.October 31, 2011 Trick Or Treat Sharks 2 Rangers 5-By now, the Rangers had returned from a hellacious seven-game road swing that began in Europe and journeyed to Long Island before hitting Western Canada. Following two home defeats to Toronto and Ottawa, they were still stinging. Then along came the Sharks on Halloween and what a treat it was. Led by Captain Cally and even Erik Christensen, our team finally got their first win in the World's Most Renovated Arena against what was supposed to be a  Cup favorite. Or at least mine. Funny but this game is best remembered for Joe Thornton's whine in which he labeled us "the softest team [San Jose] played." Yet you lost convincingly. I wonder if he cares to take a look in the mirror.

8.April 23-26, 2012 Games 6-7 vs Sens-Ottawa put our team on the brink following Craig Anderson's Game 5 shutout. Were they really gonna bow out early again? I didn't like the match-up but felt we'd prevail. After blowing off some steam by calling Devil pal Rob Davis following our losses, I guaranteed that if both teams won Game 6, they'd advance. For one night at least, I was proven right. While Hasan and Co. needed late dramatics to edge the Panthers, the Rangers came back to beat the Senators 3-2 in Ottawa thanks to some power play magic from Richards and Stepan. Good thing Kreider scored because Jason Spezza made things interesting. The heroes in Game 7 were Staal and Girardi, both tallying before Daniel Alfredsson. From there, it was ride Lundqvist, who was outstanding.

7.February 11, 2012 Statement Made Rangers 5 Flyers 2-All year, the Flyers couldn't beat us. It was mystifying except for our edge in net. The Flyers are one of the better teams yet they couldn't get one game. They tried everything, even gooning it up in an MSG loss six days leading up to the NBC rematch. Even with Claude Giroux tying it, they came unglued in a game where our boys scored three power play goals, including Captain Cally's winner. After Anisimov and Callahan put it out of reach, Dubinsky battled goon Zac Rinaldo as Philadelphia embarrassed themselves in front of their fans. Priceless.

6.March 19, 2012 Line Brawl Devils 2 Rangers 4-When Pete DeBoer submitted his lineup card featuring Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton, John Tortorella replied by starting Rupp, Brandon Prust and Stu Bickel at center. It didn't take a brain surgeon to figure out what would happen. Stemming from previous fisticuffs during two other games including one in Newark, the hatred was at an all-time high. Coincidentally, I had to rush back from the bathroom to see the bloodshed with Bickel pummeling Ryan Carter, who ironically got revenge. It was our team who responded with Dubinsky scoring early and Girardi later. Mats Zuccarello's final goal as a Ranger was sweet. A shame he got hurt.

5.May 14, 2012 Conference Finals Game 1 Devils 0 Rangers 3-I've never been so nervous. When the two teams came out for warmups to the time John Amirante sang the national anthem, I couldn't move. It wasn't until a few minutes in that I calmed down even if the Devils tried and tried to beat Lundqvist. On this night, nothing was getting past him. And well, they blocked so many shots that idiot columnists who don't cover hockey whined. That third period was unbelievable. Danny G! Kreids! And Arty!

4.January 2, 2012 Winter Classic A Ruppian Salute Rangers 3 Flyers 2-An epic scene in Citizens Bank Park as two old Patrick rivals did battle in hockey's signature event. From the Legends Game that featured old favorites on both sides to Rupp's two goals and Jagr Salute, it was awesome. The Rangers sent us a team photo they took following the win. A nice memento.

3.May 12, 2012 Conf. Semis Game 7 Caps 1 Rangers 2-If there was pressure versus Ottawa, then this was more intense. Considering how Washington had dismissed us in recent Springs, they had to win this game. Their reputation was on the line. So was Lundqvist's even if goals were at a premium. The Caps matched our work ethic by blocking more shots and delivering almost as many thunderous hits. No matter. Just like the first round, Dad went and was the good luck charm. More than that, our Blueshirts responded splendidly with goals from Richards and Del Zotto, who stood out. There were some anxious moments late but Hank shut the door.

2.May 2, 2012 Conf. Semis Game 3 Rangers 2 Caps 1 3 OT-One of the longest playoff games in club history needed triple overtime before Gaborik beat Braden Holtby on a perfect feed from Richards. The goalies were phenomenal. Lundqvist and the Caps rookie went toe to toe. Hank finished with 45 saves while Holtby had 47 in one of the best games of the postseason. A big bounceback after a flat Game 2.

1.May 7, 2012 Conf. Semis Game 5 Caps 2 Rangers 3 OT-How many True Blue Believers thought they could lose and still win the series like Round One? The tension was so much that I couldn't even stay in my seat. It looked like the Caps would steal it after John Carlson's power play goal. I went downstairs for the last minute and then the miracle happened. Richards found a way to score and Staal won it. I've never jumped so high.

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