In a night full of moments and memories one particular moment stuck out for me. The clock was running down, The Garden was getting louder and louder, the Rangers cleared the puck out of the zone and I allowed myself to look up at the clock. Less than five seconds to go. I, like everyone else, started jumping up and down and I looked down at the one player I've wanted this for so badly. And as my eyes found Henrik Lundqvist he was jumping up and down.
Just like I was.
And as the streamers came flying down, the crowd's roar hit that old "747 takeoff" level and I put my arm around my father in some type of strange victory formation, I realized just how much this means to them. With sports we get enraged when we see players who don't care. The reasoning is simple: If we had the opportunity to do what they do we would leave our hearts on the ice with every shift. So to see Lundqvist jumping up and down like that, and the team mobbing him afterwards, it just reinforces how much this team cares. And while something like that really shouldn't matter -- in a world where the bottom line is very simply, "did you win or did you lose?" -- it matters so much. It makes that emotional connection that much deeper. It makes last night that much more special.
That brought up another wealth of emotions. I thought about the two guys who have gone through such tragedies on their way to get here in Dominic Moore and Martin St. Louis. I thought about the success stories of the home grown kids in Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, and (sort of but not really) John Moore. I got the chills when Brad Richards asked the team to come celebrate (but not touch) the Prince Of Wales Trophy. I watched them pose for that photo, salute the crowd, hug each other as they skated off the ice; all under the giant jumbotron that screamed: "New York Rangers: 2014 Eastern Conference Champions."
As for the game, is there a better player to score that goal than Moore? Is there a better line to earn the game-winning goal than the fourth line, that has done everything this year? Moore played nearly 14 minutes, and a good chunk of those minutes were during crunch time in the third period. Brian Boyle was a beast. Derek Dorsett was flying all night.
And that was really the theme for the Rangers. The Rick Nash, Stepan and Kreider line was amazing in both zones. Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot had one of their best games of the series. Richards was a monster. St. Louis played big defensive minutes down the stretch. Hagelin was flying all night. It was a team effort, through and through.
The biggest part of that, as well, was the defense. What a performance they put on. Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman (who has quietly become a vital cog), Marc Staal and Raphael Diaz (who stepped in for suspended John Moore fine) were special. And Kevin Klein, I think, deserves his own mention since he's stepped his game up so far in these playoffs. All of them deserve that standing ovation at the end. All of them.
And it meant so much more to beat that team. I don't want to go crazy here, so I'll say it as politely as possible. I never though I would hate a team more than the Flyers after Round One. Then I thought the same thing after Round Two with the Penguins. But the diving, faking, smugness of that team, their coaching staff and their fanbase was overwhelming. And it's especially frustrating because some of the biggest divers and whiners on Montreal are their most talented players, guys who don't have to do that stuff. So, yes, this was sweet. And for all the nonsense, that's a good team the Rangers just beat. You should be proud.
As I walked out of The Garden last night I was filled with so many emotions. I was undeniably happy. Happier than I think I have ever been as a New York Rangers fan (remember, I was six in 1994). Typically when I hear chants of "We Want The Cup" I get angry, because those chants shouldn't come until the team is in the Stanley Cup Final. And my initial reaction to hearing those chants walking out of The Garden was the "easy now," until I realized now was the time to start those chants.
Just another special moment to add to the memory bank.
Now let's make some more.