When I took this site over for Jim back in 2011, I wanted this little corner of the Internet to be a lot of things. I wanted it to be an enormous community that's fun, informative, safe, logical and well executed. I wanted this website to be something like the way a professional newsroom would cover a team, with the added flexibility to have fun with both itself and its subject. I think we've accomplished that goal in the 7+ years I've been here.
A big part of accomplishing that, though, is being very realistic about what we're dealing with. I've taken a lot of heat for being very negative -- which I find ironic since before this year the chief complaint about my skillz as a blogger is that I was always too positive. Note: You can never win.
True to form, we call it like we see it. I am not very high on this group of players going into the playoffs. I hope they prove me wrong; I hope they prove all the evidence that they're simply not good enough wrong. I hope they shock the world and win a Stanley Cup while all the people who threw logic out the window chirp me from their computers. I do not care. Sign me up for it, it's worth The Cup.
Which brings me to my point: A lot of the content we provide -- especially from an analytical perspective -- is done from the standpoint of things the team can do better. The Tanner Glass/Dan Girardi/Marc Staal/Kevin Hayes/Dylan McIlrath/Oscar Lindberg stuff is all writing from that perspective. But here's the thing: That's not changing today, tomorrow, next week or through the playoffs.
Many people will ask why we're taking this tone now, rather than when it was apparent months ago. And the answer is simply because that's an unacceptable way to run this website in my opinion. Just because something is set in stone because the coach says so doesn't mean we should put our head in the sand and accept it as fact. That Alain Vigneault says things in front of reporters who don't believe him yet refuse to question him doesn't mean we will also sit in silence.
However, the playoffs really aren't the time to make that a focus (for us, for the team it should 100% become the focus). Or, at the very least, we're going to try and ignore it until we have to deal with it -- which might be as early as the third game in the first round. No matter how bright and happy we might pretend things are, this team needs a lot of luck/a lot of things that haven't happened for 82 games to suddenly start happening in April.
The Rangers can do this, though. They really can. They have the best goaltender in the world and an elite forward group that -- despite their struggles -- do have the skills to take over a game. They don't have the fourth line the 2014 team did, but they have more firepower both up front and on the back end than that group ever had. The defense is a mess -- something that helped keep the 2014 team afloat -- but we knew that already.
Look, I can't turn it off. I love the playoffs more than anything. There is nothing like going to Madison Square Garden for a playoff game. The warm ups, the anthem, the pre-game buzz, the city coming alive for the team itself. The feeling when they're winning is unrivaled. There's nothing like it.
So, yeah, I'm throwing on the rose colored glasses. I hope the Rangers luck their way through the entire thing. Win four games before you lose four. Do it again. And again. And then once more. It seems really simple, but it's become increasingly clear how difficult it is to do.
I've harped on this team being enormously different from the 2014/2015 group from a mental standpoint. The 2014 team was really good, although no one expected their run to the Final. The 2015 group was expected to go to the Stanley Cup and change the ending. This group is going into the playoffs with no expectations from most of the fans who have followed the team this year with a logical eye.
And that sort of makes it fun, no? Part of the magic of 2014 was that no one really expected it or believed it could happen. It was a roller coaster ride that was enjoyable from start to finish, even if it left a bitter taste in my mouth. This year's playoffs will be similar in that regard.
If this team has proved anything, it's that they can sustain a ridiculously high shooting percentage coupled with a ridiculously high save percentage. They can shoot 20% from the field and live to fight another day. Henrik Lundqvist has made a living of cleaning up the never-ending series of fresh hells the Rangers defense throws in front of him.
Is a Cup likely? No.
Does that mean I'm going to stop pretending it is once the playoffs start?
Not a chance.