It happened during the New York Rangers' 5-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Martin St. Louis had just picked Alexei Emelin's pocked and scored a beautiful top-shelf goal that had me tweet the following:
And that's when it happened. More than a few Tampa Bay fans mocking me -- many of which I didn't even know followed me -- and destroying St. Louis' character and balking at the idea that anyone could trust that traitorous heathen. I even got e-mails that essentially compared him to the devil. I guess I never realized just how much Lightning fans had warped to hate him.
To each his own, of course.
Tampa, very clearly, has not handled St. Louis' departure well at all. I've seen stories that dissected his comments in the playoffs to find negative parallels to Tampa Bay to stories about how St. Louis maybe isn't the player Tampa Bay thought he was when he, ya know, helped them win a Stanley Cup. I ignored most of them at the time, but after the e-mails and tweets this past week I wanted to see for myself. A few very nice (seriously, not sarcastic at all) Tampa fans from Raw Charge -- our awesome Lightning blog -- dropped by to tell us Tampa might not even honor St. Louis tonight in his return to Tampa.
Oh that would be fun.
Want to know why? Because the Rangers need two points more than they need the fans from Tampa Bay to salute one of New York's most important players. And, as we've seen time and time again, boy oh boy does St. Louis elevate his game to another level when he's got a chip on his shoulder.
To be fair, we really can't understand their situation, either. This is going to come off as egotistical -- it's really not intended -- but it would be hard for us to understand where they're coming from if we tried. The Rangers play in the biggest market in the country, the greatest city in the world (I'm biased of course), have a team that makes money hand over fist and an owner that's more than willing to spend that money to be successful. The Rangers play in the city that never sleeps, under the bright lights of Broadway in the World's Most Famous Arena that's packed every night. St. Louis isn't even the first Ranger on the current team to want to play his home games at Madison Square Garden. Rick Nash orchestrated his own move three years ago to get to New York, and that doesn't even include free agents who choose to sign here when they hit the open market.
When the Rangers were in the dark ages, New York was the only thing drawing players to Broadway. And it still worked -- well, that and the gobs of cash being thrown at their heads. Recently the Rangers have been one of the more successful teams in the NHL -- which also makes them a destination for players who want to win.
I think last year, when the Rangers marched all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, made St. Louis forcing his way out hurt Tampa fans even more. The emotional roller coaster he went through -- along with the way he handled himself -- put him (rightfully so) in the spotlight and Tampa fans wished they could have embraced him through it -- which is exactly how I would have felt if the tables were turned. It also doesn't help that St. Louis probably scored the most memorable goal for the Rangers during their run to the Final
, and had an emotional speech
that was played anywhere and anyplace a hockey fan would see it.
The part that made me laugh through all of this? I can't believe Tampa is spending so much time worrying about St. Louis. Ryan Callahan is doing amazing things down in Florida -- playing with Steven Stamkos doesn't hurt -- and the Lightning might be the best team in the NHL. It also helps that Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman are doing the same things in Tampa they've done in the past in New York (that's a good thing).
St. Louis did amazing things in Tampa Bay. He might be the franchise's best player, and he was a major part of the organization's only Stanley Cup. I would be shocked to see them spite him, but I also don't care. As much as I no longer worry about Callahan since he's gone, I am certainly not going to focus on what another team chooses to do with their past. Hell, I don't even have control over what my team does with their past.
What I am concerned with is the two points on the table. I am concerned with the Rangers continuing the momentum they've gained from a 2-0 win over the Flyers
followed by a 5-0 win over the Canadiens. I am concerned with the Rangers taking four of six points in this three-game stretch where they will play the Flyers in a home and home after tonight's matchup with the Lightning.
Would St. Louis -- two points away from 1,000 in his career -- reaching a major career milestone in Tampa be an awesome story line? Yes. Am I more concerned about the final score at the end of the night? Yes, and it's not even close.
I must admit, my headline above is misleading (intentionally). I'm not so much talking about St. Louis extracting revenge by scoring his 1,000th point tonight. I'm more talking about the Rangers extracting revenge on the Lightning after they embarrassed them last week in Madison Square Garden.
That's more important, anyway.