So, about last night.
We all witnessed something that has become all too familiar for Rangers fans; Henrik Lundqvist standing on his head and doing everything a man can do to keep his team in the game, and having all of his effort and talent be squandered by the other players wearing Rangers jerseys. Being shut out at home for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final is, obviously, not acceptable. For those of you who think that last night is Henrik Lundqvist's fault, I honestly don't know what to say to you. Was Alex Killorn's goal soft? Sure it was. But the four or five desperate, superhuman saves that Henrik made throughout the game more than made up for it. Henrik Lundqvist isn't the problem.
If sanity and logic are still the currency of this particular dimension, Martin St. Louis played his last game as a New York Ranger last night. However, the Rangers being eliminated last night is not completely Martin St. Louis' fault. He shares the burden of blame with nearly all of his teammates, the men who wear ties and jackets on the bench, and the man who put the team together in between nervous bites on an unlit cigar. Several Rangers had an outstanding run in the 2015 Playoffs (Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan come to mind), but seemingly no one showed up ready and hungry to win last night's crucial game.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rangers?src=hash">#Rangers</a>' final shot on goal this season came from Jesper Fast. With 6:50 remaining in the third period. No shots after that.</p>— Seth Rothman (@RothmanHockey) <a href="https://twitter.com/RothmanHockey/status/604506391710044160">May 30, 2015</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Or, perhaps, it just feels that way to the thousands of dejected and disappointed Rangers fans who had to watch for the second straight year the Rangers trip over themselves, much like Marc Staal did several times in the postseason, when they were so close to hockey's ultimate prize.
When you watch something that had so much potential fall apart when it entered into the defining crucible that demanded nothing but exemplary performance, it's hard to remember what it was before it failed. The 2014-15 New York Rangers were a superb hockey team. In the end inconsistency, questionable coaching decisions, injuries, and self-inflicted wounds proved to be a fatal recipe when the team was put to the test by the Tampa Bay Lightning. What makes last night's loss so indescribably painful is that this team seemingly had what it took to win the Stanley Cup. However, there isn't a Rangers fan among us that wasn't aware of the flaws and shortcomings of the team. Despite all of the talk about Henrik Lundqvist's legendary Game 7 and elimination game statistics, both teams went into last night's game knowing that they had to earn the victory that would get them into the Stanley Cup Final. The young Tampa Bay Lightning group proved that they were more capable, that they wanted it more, and that they were ready to take it from the Rangers last night.
For the numerous skaters that disappointed last night and throughout the postseason this isn't about failing to live up to reasonable expectations, this is about performing just past the boundary line of being irrelevant. Now that the season is over for the New York Rangers, the time has come to salvage what is left of the machine that got to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final and remake it. This, of course, means seemingly crucial components being removed completely. It means letting Martin St. Louis walk, it means biting the bullet and buying out the last year of Dan Boyle's contract, it means thinking long and hard about how much cap space Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan are worth, and it means trying to find a way to escape one of the exorbitant contracts that belong to Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. However, those that love and follow the game already know that nothing will come easily; especially not for the Rangers. What will Glen Sather do with this machine he put together that fell just five wins short of the Stanley Cup? What pieces should go and must go and what pieces deserve to stay? I guess we'll all find out soon.
Sports are truly one of mankind's most bizarre and fascinating fabrications. We wear designated colors, sing familiar songs, clap and shout in unison by the thousands, and embrace complete strangers during brief moments of finite glory all because of sports. They will forever find a way to tap into the best and the worst in many of us. I can honestly say that I am dejected from last night's loss, but what I find even more depressing and intolerable is the way that fans treat one another after gutting defeats. Tempers flare, skins go thin, and suddenly everything and anything seems like an attack or a fight worth having. They almost never are. It is all, ultimately, wasted energy that puts salt into deep, fresh wounds. If there is anything that I have learned from my lifelong relationship with hockey and the last several years here at Blueshirt Banter, it is that the magic that sports can provide us means nothing without the community of people who bear witness to it, revel in it, and find connections with each other through it. So please, be good to one another and remember that no one knows just how awful you feel quite like the other people who had to wake up today and know that there will be no more Rangers hockey until the fall.
We all know about the mistakes that have been made by the Rangers' coaching staff and management, especially those that still impact the team. I assure you that we all know about Anton Stralman. It was hard to forget when we watched him have a rock solid series and take a place in line with the winning team as they shook hands with our defeated Rangers. Belaboring the team's flaws and faults doesn't change anything, and unless we take great care in how and when we choose to vent about the team's readily apparent shortcomings, it can do more harm than good.
All we can do now is try to endure this period of uncertainty before we enter into the chaotic squall that is the offseason and free agency when it opens on July 1st. Thankfully, we can do that together.
Be sure to stay with us throughout the offseason here at Blueshirt Banter and thank you all for being with us throughout the season, commenting in the threads, lurking and reading the words we often write early in the morning or very late at night, validating a lot of hard work, and making this place something I am proud to be a part of. I can't imagine watching and following Rangers hockey without you guys.
Thank you. Let's go Rangers.