This might come as a surprise to you, but the New York Rangers did not make the playoffs this year. Though a rare, initially horrible shock to us fans, we can look at the silver lining. When you’re constantly in it, you don’t see certain things that you might from the outside.
It’s important to note the few positives right off the bat – for starters, this is an opportunity to get some rest for our oft-injured, overworked players. Think about Kevin Shattenkirk coming back refreshed, or how great Henrik Lundqvist’s tan will look. Also, a positive according to me, missing the playoffs essentially sealed Alain Vigneault’s fate.
There are a lot of things, though, that we couldn’t think about while constantly battling the Capitals and crushing their dreams of making it past the second round. Let’s look at some lessons learned thus far.
- Overtime is actually fun! Who knew? It turns out when you’re not in your lucky spot with one buttcheek on the arm of the couch, ready to puke into a plastic bag you’re clutching nearby, it’s actually extremely exciting and fun! Stress-free hockey does exist!
- It is really difficult to listen to Mike Milbury, and it turns out it’s not only because he hates the Rangers. At one point, during the Caps-Jackets series, Milbury called the game-changing player out as Tom Wilson because of his – you guessed it – toughness. Cheap shots does not equate to toughness, Mike.
- This may be something we’ve learned in years past, but the second round truly is the best series of hockey. The Nashville – Winnipeg series is by far the most entertaining I’ve seen throughout these playoffs. Both teams are so fast and so skilled.
- The Rangers may have been right to trade the players they left behind. Michael Grabner only played two games for the Devils before they were knocked out in the first round. Sending Rick Nash off to Boston was smart to get a return with his contract coming up. Even Ryan McDonagh, who is doing okay in Tampa, seems more comfortable deferring to a more talented defenseman (no, not Girardi).
- There’s no shortage of surprising great players out there that we may not see often. Case in point: Mark Scheifele. He’s 24 and has 10 points (8G, 2A) through 7 full games played. David Pastrnak? 18(!) points (5G, 13A) through 9 games. Eighteen points could be an entire playoff run – through to the finals – for a decent hockey player. These guys are fun to watch.
- Watching teams you’ve been so used to hating play one another makes you almost – almost – cheer for one over the other. Almost.
What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve noticed while watching the playoffs this year? Share it with us in the comments.