NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 17: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist (C) #30 of the New York Rangers celebrates with his teammates after they won 3-2 against the Washington Capitals in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 17, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
In the immediate future it's going to be difficult for most to look past the bitter first round knockout by the Capitals. Mostly because with a few bounces the Rangers very easily could still be playing hockey. But in reality, the future is brighter than the present for this club. There will be more playoff appearances down the road and barring something inconcievably stupid or unlucky, the Rangers will be better equipped to compete against the offensive juggernauts of the Eastern Conference.
Considering all that has happened this season, the Rangers met expectations and in all likelihood lived up to their ability. As presently structured, they are a one and done club against most teams in the playoffs. Especially so when considering how battered and bruised most of the team was after slugging through an uphill battle all season long.
Don't get me wrong, there is no such thing as second place. Every season should be Stanley Cup or bust. But the Rangers put forth a season which they can build upon, something that couldn't be said after the previous few seasons. The NHL is not the NBA, winning a championship is a process and you cannot build a team through trades and free agency alone. The Rangers are doing things the right way, they are grooming and growing their own talent and were rewarded with big contributions from Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, and Michael Sauer this season. The hopes and dreams of Rangers universe ride on the Rangers continued ability to draft well and hopefully contributions from the next wave of young guns isn't too far off.
Saying the future is brighter than the present is usually a b.s phrase that gets tossed around to try and heal the wounds of left by a crappy season (hello Islanders fans and welcome to the party Devils fans). But with this Rangers club there are very real reasons to believe this to be true. There is considerable young talent in the pipeline with Chris Kreider, Christian Thomas, and Dylan McIlrath and the Rangers core is finally established. Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal have emerged as leaders and Henrik Lundqvist is still the best goaltender in the game.
In the end, these Rangers are a team we can all be proud of. Even though they didn't accomplish the ultimate goal this season, if there is such a thing as a consolation prize in professional sports, putting forth an honest effort would be it.
Thanks for an exciting season fellas.