Of course that game ended 1-0. Why wouldn’t it? For better or worse, this organization never makes things easy. Of course, the score should have been more like 4-0, if not for the heroics of young Dustin Tokarski. He kept a tired and outpaced Canadiens team in it until the end.
Now, you’ll forgive me for being a little disjointed in the aftermath of this victory, so if you wouldn’t mind I’m just going to meander a little bit through the jumbled mess that is my brain following the Rangers’ first Stanley Cup Finals berth in 20 years…
I became a Rangers fan back in 1992-1993. I started playing street hockey with some neighborhood kids and was hooked immediately. It was the very end of the regular season and the Blueshirts had failed to qualify for the playoffs. But hey, I was a huge Yankees fan, so why wouldn’t I support the Rangers?
The first full season I watched wire to wire was 1993-1994. It was a magical ride complete with a President’s Trophy, total dismantling of the Islanders, one of the greatest Conference Finals ever played amplified by “The Guarantee”, a 7 game Stanley Cup Final, including “The Save” and Sam Rosen almost having a coronary when they lifted the big prize at The Garden. Talk about getting spoiled.
Then the core of that fantastic team started to fray and guys got shipped off, concussed, retired or left via free agency. It was around 1998 I realized that was probably it for a while. Then the dark ages set in. The mid-aughts were brutal. The team was filled with unlikeable wanna-be stars, overpaid because Glen Sather had carte blanche to Jim Dolan’s checkbook.
Then, Lockout II happened. I remember the economics pretty vividly because of how opposed to a salary cap I was. I think the final system helped even the field, but many of my cap criticisms still hold true today, but I digress. What we received out of the lockout, though, was an obscure Swede named Henrik Lundqvist.
The King’s career so far has been one of his magnificent play masking poorly assembled rosters. Even in 2011-2012 the team was tremendous to watch defy the odds, but ultimately ill-equipped to get New York where it wanted to go. This season has been different. Obviously the club got off to a very rough start. You could see them start to find their footing a little in 2014, but the trade that brought Marty St. Louis here was the defining moment. He brought skill, leadership, depth and a winning pedigree.
The death of St. Louis’ mother, France, has galvanized this group to play as a true team. They are playing for each other, communicating, and executing their game plan with trust in one another. It’s a shame 1.) that he has had to experience this loss and 2.) that the media has used the storyline in such a parasitic manner, but there is no doubt that it has had an effect on the team as a whole and helped bring the boys in the room closer together.
So here we are. Back in the Stanley Cup Finals after 20 years. There is excitement, anxiety, trepidation and pride. Whoever comes out of the West is going to be an immense challenge. No matter what, I am incredibly proud of what this group has accomplished considering their brutal start. Obviously, The Cup’s return to Broadway would be cause for raucous celebration (the wife and I decided if they win, we are definitely going to the parade), but even if they come up short, what a ride it has been."Here we are again. 20 years later...",