The first round of eliminations typically brings some surprises and, regardless of your team making the playoffs, a few disappointments. Fans who watched the Minnesota Wild edge out the Colorado Avalanche certainly found a new bandwagon to hop on. With the Rangers still in it, fans in the metro area may not have taken notice, but there is good reason why some glory coming to the state of hockey should be celebrated.
The Wild, well.. some have speculated (ahem, Kevin and myself) they would be swept straight out of the second round. And who knows, maybe they do go down in five games, but until then the bandwagon seems to be going strong. It’s hard to deny that watching Spurgeon in round 1 tie the game with 2:27 to go to take Game 7 into OT (heart palpitations, anyone?) and then having former Islander Nino Niederreiter win the series 5 minutes later wasn’t exciting. I was jumping around and I have zero feelings for either squad. So why should anyone be on this bandwagon aside from their obvious perseverance?
Take the simple fact that the team spent lots of money to take Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on to the team to create a new identity back in the summer of 2012, the same time that the Rangers acquired Rick Nash in an effort to do the same. Parise and Suter wanted to go to Minnesota – it is the hockey state, where Parise is from and very close to where Suter was raised – and Nash had the desire to go to New York – where he believes he will hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. Through their first full season together, the team has found its chemistry and all work well together. Captain Mikko Koivu has the quiet skills and confidence to keep this squad together. If #fancystats are your thing, check out this post on his player comparison – Henrik Sedin? Not too shabby.
Adding to the charm of this team is the emotional side, the Josh Harding story, a goaltender whose played through a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at the age of 28. Initially Harding kept the illness a secret, wanting to play through severe physical situations as most hockey players have shown (see Stamkos, Steven or Peverly, Rich). The common symptoms of MS point to the end of a career, especially for a goalie – blurred vision, lack of balance, coordination issues – but Harding somehow played through all of that. As a soft spoken guy, fans cheer for him; unfortunately, he’s been sidelined for most of this season, playing only 29 games, yet still dresses and skates for “emergency situations.”
Leadership? Check. Perseverance? Check. So what about young guns? Entertainment? Well, look no further than the likes of Mikael Granlund, the 22-year-old Fin whose moves are Datsyukian in nature. As he’s learning to control these moves, he’s putting points up on the board, and it is impossible to ignore. Entertainment comes in the form of Ilya Bryzgalov, the unanimous star of 2012 Winter Classic’s 24/7. If you’re looking to laugh for about ten minutes straight, check out his highlights here. But at the end of the day, Bryz has been surprisingly sharp and is playing well against one of the best offensive teams in the league.
This all ties in to the game we’re about to watch tonight, the elimination game that shouldn’t be for the Rangers. Analysis has been thrown around and broadcasts have reminded us of how horrendous the power play is, but the tools are all in order for the Rangers to be playing better. Could the team possibly look at other contenders and take from them the intangibles that are missing, so that we don’t have to look at this postseason as a “what the heck went wrong” scenario? It’s no surprise that our big guys have to step up (with no disrespect intended towards Martin St. Louis and the tragic death of his mother last night), but maybe the intangible that they’re missing is showing in the other playoff game on tonight at 9:30: heart. Heart and a great sense of humor."What the Rangers could learn from the Minnesota Wild",