Scabbards are affixed to skates. Equipment is packed away and sticks are gathered in what is an annual hockey ritual.
And so it was Breakup Day on Tuesday at the Rangers practice facility in Westchester where the players and media schmoozed about what was accomplished, what-might-have-been — and was, among many other things.
Naturally, the ancient Brooklyn Dodgers theme from more than a half-century ago was revived; Wait ’til next year.
“It (looking to 2016-17) starts tomorrow,” said Derek Stepan, one of the most consistently productive Rangers all season. “I believe so much in this group. We played some really good hockey.”
And so they did, especially down the homestretch when the Blueshirts won-lost record was encouragingly far over the .500 mark. But there were flaws and veterans such as defenseman Marc Staal were aware of them.
“We didn’t get it going this year as consistently as we wanted,” Marc allowed. “Against Pittsburgh, we were just outplayed. But I like our group and the guys we have in this room.”
Skaters who have been around — Derick Brassard for one — realized that out of 30 NHL teams only one annexes the Stanley Cup.
“I remember standing here last year (after losing to Tampa Bay) and this season,” Brassard recalled. “It’s disappointing; an awful feeling. At the end of the day we got beaten by a good team.
“For whatever reason we didn’t play our style of hockey and we didn’t play at our best. We’re going to try to learn from it, go on to next season and try to be better.”
Like his teammates, Brassard remembered how the Rangers rebounded from the first game defeat in Pittsburgh and tied the series in the second contest.
Brassard: “We were right there after tying the Penguins and had a chance to go back in front of our fans and take care of home ice. But we couldn’t put anything together at home and thinking about it feels awful right now.”
Alain Vigneault candidly admitted that changes will be made and every player will be re-evaluated. What must be avoided are impetuous moves in the wake of the club’s first round playoff exit.
“We need to calm down,” said the coach, “and analyze what has to be done.”
Among the first orders of business will be treatment for the wounded including those who played hurt such as Dan Girardi, who conceded that 2015-16 was not the season he wanted it to be.
“I’m 100 percent sure that I can come back and be the player I used to be,” the defenseman replied when asked about his future. “Obviously this year wasn’t the best for me or for the team. I’ll use the summer to be ready.”
Ditto for Ryan McDonagh. Of all the injuries, the Captain’s hand wound had a more devastating effect on the Blueshirts in the playoffs than any other. The good news is that — according to Ryan — no surgery will be necessary.
“It will be a few weeks before it’s fully healed,” McDonagh revealed. “For me it was frustrating not to be able to play (in the playoffs) the way that I needed to and expected to for the team.”
The Captain also conceded that the defense would have to be tightened next season.
“That (better defense) will be a big focus going into next season and it’s going to have to become a strength again for this team. We learned a painful lesson in the Pittsburgh series, giving up goals the way we did.”
Rick Nash reiterated his passion for New York and desire to remain a Ranger. “I love this city,” he declared, “and this organization. It’s a fun team to be a part of, but I know I can’t control what’s going to happen in the summer.”
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who sees things clearly and sees them whole, invoked 20-20 hindsight in his X-Ray of the homestretch and playoffs.
“We were over 100 points going into the playoffs” The King asserted, “and I felt like we were right there with them (Penguins). Game 3 was a big one and not being able to win that one hurt us big-time.
“Give the Penguins credit. They were smart and fast; the hottest team coming into the playoffs. We needed everything and more to beat them and were not able to get to that level this time.”
Henrik oozed with confidence about his future.
“This game is a lot about determination and how much you want it. I want it as bad now as I did 10 years ago; maybe even more. That will be my biggest motivation moving forward.”
Coach Vigneault figured that “a week to 10 days” will be required before the general staff convenes for a roster evaluation.
“We’re at a stage now where we need to look at some changes,” AV said. “With any NHL team the status-quo is not possible and not what is needed. You need to keep changing pieces and bringing in different players to add to the dynamic.
“Our core guys have been together for a while. It’s certainly time to look at what we can do to improve.