The Rangers music has stopped, but the melody lingers on and, despite the Blueshirts’ playoff defeat, there are sweet choruses to sing about 2014-15.
I’ve always felt that the top point-getting team never gets enough credit for slogging through a challenging 82-game schedule to finish Number One out of 30 clubs.
Yes, there’s the Presidents’ Trophy for all that work but it’s soon forgotten as soon as the first playoff puck is dropped.
Looking backward over three playoff rounds, I have 25 reflections now that the ice has cleared and I regain my 20-20 hindsight:
1. The easiest way to explain the ending of the Rangers’ six consecutive Game 7 victory streak is that it couldn’t go on forever.
2. It’s called succumbing to the Law of Averages. The same thing happened to the Detroit Red Wings from 1949-64 and the Boston Bruins from 1983-94.
3. The exact Law of Averages rule holds when you consider that the final loss was the Blueshirts’ first Game 7 defeat at The Garden — after six straight wins — and first elimination game loss at home ending an NHL record 10-0 run.
4. If a Rangers’ Playoff MVP is to be named, my choice is Henrik Lundqvist. The King needed more goals in the two most critical MSG contests, Games 5 and 7 (2-0, 2-0). Give Henrik a first goal in either game and it’s a win.
5. That Ryan McDonagh played more than one game with a broken foot goes down as one of the most heroic feats in New York sports history.
6. Pointing a finger at the two most critical turning points in Game 7 — and therefore the Eastern Conference Final — it had to be New York’s inability to produce a goal on either of its two Game 7 power plays.
7. If I Had To Do It Over Department: Right now, it’s easy to say but in retrospect, I would have played James Sheppard in place of Martin St. Louis in Game 7.
8. Sheppard not only was a positive physical factor when he was on the ice but also could score. With all deference and admiration for the future Hall of Famer, St. Louis’ rifle delivered only one goal. Sheppard’s physical play in the Bolts end was an overlooked key to New York’s success in Games 4 and 6.
9. Never should the Rangers’ effort be questioned.
10. If I Had To Do It Over Department, Part Two: I would have liked to see the Rangers’ mode of attack that succeeded in Games 4 and 6 employed in Game 7. In the finale, it appeared more like the Blueshirts were using the script from Game 5.
11. The Rangers’ current core still is in a good place on the championship curve.
12. Wear and tear from having played almost an entire extra season of hockey — in terms of playoff games — the last four years may explain the club coming up goal-empty in Game 7.
13. When it comes to “Bottom Lines,” the Rangers had a remarkable run playing on the edge.
14. Many of us — The Maven at the top of the list — under-appreciated the Lightning’s talent top to bottom.
15. The Triplet Line — Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat — is one of the NHL’s best consistent offensive units. Tiny Tyler has emerged as a genuine star and may have been underestimated until he blasted a hat trick.
16. Once Bolts captain Steven Stamkos found his game, the Rangers had two major offensive trios to shut down and that was no easy task.
17. Reader Alan Greenberg writes from Florida: “If I have to pick a turning point it would be Game 3. For the Rangers to score five goals and still lose was a bad sign.”
18. Once and for all it’s time to bury that old bromide about “home-ice advantage.” Not when the Rangers lose three Final games at MSG.
19. Reader Joel Hirschhorn writes from Milburn, New Jersey. “The three greatest things from Game 7 for the Rangers were: A. Henrik Lundqvist’s goaltending; B. Ryan McDonagh playing despite a broken foot; C. Having the face-off edge. I enjoyed watching them all season.” … Me, too!
20. I doubt that anyone can argue with this statement: In the Bolts-Blueshirts series we saw two very likable teams which play hockey the right way. Each displayed skill guys without any goons to deface the contests.
21. Also; can anyone really argue with the officiating one way or another? Certainly not in Game 7.
22. My most pleasant surprise, Rangers-wise, was the positive manner in which Tanner Glass fit into the lineup as an effective fourth-liner. He took his cue from the most underrated Blueshirt of the season and playoffs, Dominic Moore.
23. Back in September, The Game’s “Bible,” The Hockey News, established that the Rangers’ Stanley Cup odds were 17-1. It had the Lightning at 11-1.
24. The Hockey News also opined, “The Blueshirts’ aim to avoid a probable hangover after a run to the Stanley Cup Final.” They did avoid that “hangover,” they just couldn’t score in Game 7.
25. Or, as King Henrik so aptly asserted, “If we get the big play at the right time (in Game 7) it would have been a different result.”
P.S. As William Shakespeare so aptly commented before there were Stanley Cup playoff games: “There is much virtue in if.”