There will come a time when Rangers fans look back on this season with mostly fond memories, but it is not this day.
Not when the team was so close – four measly wins from attaining the sport’s ultimate prize – but now faces the very realistic prospect of an embarrassing sweep. And not when that prize was seemingly lost as much because of atrocious officiating and because of pucks’ recent tendency to find every which way to bounce off Blueshirts into their own net, while simultaneously finding every which way to bounce away from the opponents’.
Years ago, Wayne Gretzky famously said, “there are three seasons in the NHL: The regular season, the post-season and then the Stanley Cup final.”
Never could a statement ring more true with this fan base.
Let’s not pretend the Rangers haven’t enjoyed a little bit of good fortune on their own to even get to this point. Despite Dustin Tokarski’s best effort, New York was lucky not to face Carey Price. The Blueshirts have been similarly lucky to avoid any major injuries during their improbable playoff run. Many have pointed out that the Rangers got to face the relative cupcake slate of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Montreal, as opposed to San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago. And – as morbid as it sounds – they stumbled upon a rallying point in the form of a horrible tragedy when Marty St. Louis mother passed away.
One goal was the difference between the Blueshirts facing the Kings and the Blackhawks – undoubtedly a much more favorable matchup. Then again, one goal was the difference between New York advancing past both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to the Conference Finals.
That’s hockey. Only one team gets to win the Stanley Cup and the Rangers have gotten as close as you can get without (in all likelihood) winning it.
There’s blame to go around for the team’s failure at the summit of the mountain, but the Kings are just the better team. That much is very clear, but it’s massively unfortunate that bad luck and poor refereeing prevented New York’s chance at a mini miracle. You can hear the frustration in the players’ voices, and it’s hard to blame them in this case.