I also believe that this is Glen Sather’s final masterpiece. For years now he’s heard that he only won five Stanley Cups between 1984 - 1990 because of the amount of star power on his Oilers teams (as if he didn’t draft and sculpt THE greatest–Wayne Gretzky, arguably the 2nd greatest–Mark Messier, and some of the other great players of all time–Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri). Even here in NYC, he still gets flack for his pre-04 lockout run as GM, and people were calling for his head as recently as after Game 4 against Pittsburgh. I’m not saying he’s retiring after this season, but how sweet would that victory cigar be for him if he, much like Messier, wins one with the Rangers?
Sather has built a team of homegrown lunchpail guys with the right skills, varied acquired stars like Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis, previously considered draft busts like Benoit Pouliot, John Moore, and Derick Brassard, cast offs like Derek Dorsett, Dan Carcillo, Dominic Moore, and hell even Brian Boyle. He hired a coach that keeps the Rangers calm and honest and tells the team to "go out, play boys, and have fun." Dan Carcillo’s generally good games where he’s chipped in on offense showcase Alain Vigneault’s sentiment without even having to say it. It’s then all backed by the best goalie in hockey. When The New York Rangers are healthy, they run one of the deepest, relentlessly fast teams in the league at opponents with the right kind of breakout and forecheck system to showcase their speed and skill. Everyone on this 2013-2014 New York Rangers team has above-average-to-elite speed and above-average-to-elite skills of some kind.
Game four was making me sick because the penalties The Rangers took were taking them out of rhythm, and because of which, I was worried they'd wind up having to go back to Montreal with the series tied two games apiece. But, then I remembered, AV makes no excuses; St. Louis makes no excuses; Brassard was fired up as hell when he scored the goal to make it 2-1. You couldn't even see the slap shot he took unless you watched the replay in slow motion. That's how much of a "Steve Larmer" ripper it was.
I started following the Rangers religiously in the 1992-93 season when I was 7. They won the cup the next year. As a kid that was great. I remember laughing at my uncle who cried when they won the cup. I didn’t understand. You don’t really appreciate it until you watch 80 games of struggle for the next 20 years, including 8 losing seasons in a row where nothing worked – Campbell, Muckler, Ron Lowe, Trottier etc… That Montreal team whined and cried, and The Rangers just went about their business. I couldn’t be happier and prouder to be a Rangers fan right now. The national and Canadian media doesn’t understand how The Rangers are here right now. I hope they keep questioning right until the time they raise a cup above their heads.
Everything that I said above about game 4 about how proud I am right now to be a Rangers fan I reiterate about last night. That is how you play a third period. Montreal shortened their bench the whole series, and much like we found out two years ago, you have to have 4 lines and 3 defensive pairs of depth to win deep in the playoffs. The Rangers absolutely took it to the Canadiens in the 3rd period. Michel Therrien had no answer because he didn’t have the depth.
The Canadiens were done from the moment in the 1st period when Brian Gionta dove trying to draw a high-sticking penalty, accidentally running Lundqvist, and getting called for the goalie interference. Sorry Canadiens, last night you had to earn it. The better team showed. Even in the penalty box at that moment Gionta had a "f**k" look on his face. The Rangers were a better team. They dominated play for roughly 85% of the 1st period, 75% of the 2nd period, and 95% of the third period. Montreal’s vaunted power play got almost nothing, and the Rangers supposedly horrible power play actually produced decently.
Dominic Moore said, when receiving the Broadway Hat last night for the GW goal, "Boys, great f*****g job tonight. A perfect example of how we need to play, there is not much margin of error here and everyone f*****g contributed tonight. Okay, and that is how we need to keep focused going forward here so good job." He’s absolutely right. What's the best way to make sure you play without making an error when the margin is that slim? Play the game 200 feet from your own goal. If Dustin Tokarski (and now that the series is over let’s give credit where it’s due and say kudos to that kid as he’s a stud waiting to happen, and some trade chip for the Habs) doesn’t stand on his head, The Rangers win that one going away in a 5-0 rout from the 3rd period alone.
The Rangers are going to be considered the underdog no matter who comes out of the west. I’m sure (not that I truly care) that a certain famous hockey writer, who'll go unnamed here, after picking the Flyers in 6, Penguins in 6, and Canadiens in 6, is already filling out his Stanley Cup preview with ____ Western Conference team in 6 over the Rangers. The Rangers will need to play massively disciplined hockey and use their speed, finish checks, and transfer play between a John Tortorella "Dump & Chase" style with cycling and forecheck, to an Alain Vigneault "Stretch Pass" style depending on what the situation calls for. No matter what, they need to play north/south and back-check like their childhood dreams depend on it, because they do. I also think The Rangers need to have their wingers playing a mobile defensive game in their own zone like we saw in the 3rd period last night. Don't have the wingers at the hash marks, have them attacking the opposing defensemen to create turnovers off of stick checks and blocked shots, which will create odd man rushes the other way and allow the Rangers to showcase their speed and skill. The Rangers have the best goalie in the world, They don’t need five more on the ice with him. Time to rest. Time to study film. It's not time yet to celebrate, but we’re close. I can almost taste it.