Rangers Vs. Lightning: Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold
Martin St. Louis probably won't get the reception he should tonight in Tampa Bay. And that's fine, so long as the Rangers come away with two points.
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:
Is it possible not to love St. Louis? I feel like I root harder for him than anyone else on the ice.— Joe Fortunato (@BlueshirtBanter) November 24, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.